Kim speculation triggers action by China censors

Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton tapped this week to be President Donald Trump's national security adviser speaking to the Conservative Political Action Conference at National Harbor Maryland Feb. 24 2017

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Tuesday it "kinda looked like" North Korean leader Kim Jong Un went to China's capital, Beijing, but told reporters at the Pentagon, "I don't know".

The visit by the special train to Beijing and unusually heavy security at a guesthouse where prominent North Koreans have stayed seemed to point to the possibility that Kim was making his first visit to China as the North's leader.

# CHINA NOT READY TO ADMIT: When approached, a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman deflected a question on whether Kim, his sister or some other senior North Korean was visiting.

Kim's father and grandfather both visited China, the North Korea's most important ally and the source of much of its trade and goods.

North Korea, too, has cause to seek China's ear. "If we have information, we will publish it", Hua said.

It was the example of Kim Jong Il's 2011 visit that provided early clues that something may be up. That was the only time the special train is known to have been used by anyone but the leader himself - another reason why many North Korea watchers suspected Kim Jong Un must have been the main passenger this time around.

Heightened security at possible venues for a high-level meeting, motorcades driven under police escort, and a non-denial from Chinese authorities also fuelled the belief that Kim had come to pay his respects to President Xi Jinping. Some analysts are doubtful though, saying it's hard to imagine that a proud young leader who has proclaimed his nation a world power would sneak into Beijing under cover of night for his first face-to-face meeting with the Chinese leadership since taking power in 2011.

While China and the USA have shown a united front in putting diplomatic pressure on North Korea over its nuclear programme and missile tests, Donald Trump's plans to put tariffs on Chinese goods have complicated the picture in recent days.

This trip to Beijing could give Kim the chance to show he still has China's support and that might strengthen his position when or if he meets with President Trump.

Details of those visits were never confirmed by either country until Kim Jong Il was safely back in North Korea.

Ahead of his proposed summit with USA leader Donald Trump, Bloomberg reported that Kim was in Beijing, citing three sources.

Kim Jong Il's train consisted of 90 carriages, Chosun Ilbo reported, and traveled at an average speed of 60 km per hour - a meager 37.28 miles per hour - while 100 security agents would sweep stations for bombs before the train pulled.

The last time that specific train carried someone other than North Korea's supreme leader to Beijing was in 1983, when Kim Jong Il, not yet in charge, made the journey, Andray Abrahamian, the senior advisor to Choson Exchange tweeted. South Korea's presidential office said it could not verify the reports either.

There has been no official comment on the reports, which were not covered by Chinese or North Korean state media.

"If North Korea speaks with the United States on its own, it might feel it is at a disadvantage but, if it has China as an ally, Pyongyang may think it will be able to protect its interests and profits during the summits".

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