North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un is in Beijing, Bloomberg News quoted three sources as saying on Monday.
Chinese social media had been swamped with rumors Kim was heading to Beijing, as a train in which he is believed to have ridden reportedly caused delays across northeast China.
The Kim family has a history of traveling to Beijing via train, but this would be the first known time Kim has met another head of state or left North Korea since becoming supreme leader.
President Donald Trump's decision to accept a meeting with Kim may have prompted China to invite him for talks.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is in Beijing, Bloomberg News quoted three sources as saying on Monday.
The report comes after a mysterious train journey in which a high-security train left North Korea and arrived in Beijing to a locked-down station. The trip was followed by the emergence of a massive motorcade.
If Kim is in Beijing, it would mark the first time he's left North Korea since becoming supreme leader in 2011, and a historic departure from years of deteriorating relations with China.
Since Kim took power, his aggressive pursuit of North Korea's nuclear weapons program has strained relations with China to the point where Beijing has little influence in Pyongyang. But Kim has recently expressed willingness to talk to South Korea and the US.
Yun Sun, a North Korea and China expert at the Stimson Center, told Business Insider that President Donald Trump's move to accept talks with Kim has elevated the North Korean leader's status, likely making China more eager to talk to him for fear of getting left behind in future negotiations to determine the fate of the peninsula.
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What would a meeting between Kim and Xi mean?
China has anxiety about being left out of talks between North Korea and the US, as the outcome could lead to a unified Korea or a US presence in North Korea, both of which run counter to China's strategic interests.
As leader of North Korea, Kim has never met with another head of state, and even purged his own uncle in a brutal execution — allegedly over his ties to China and possible efforts to depose Kim in favor of a more China-friendly leader. If his trip to Beijing is confirmed, it's likely to end in a meeting between Kim and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Despite the recent history of rough relations, China remains North Korea's treaty ally and its main trading partner and point of contact with the outside world.
Additionally, as an ally, China could help secure guarantees of North Korea's security with the US.
"North Korea understands that given the power disparity, even if they reach a deal with the US, and US forsakes that deal, they’re nothing they can do about it," Sun said.
With Xi's assurances, North Korea may feel more confident progressing in dialogues with the US after it gets "some external guarantee," of its safety, Sun said.
Sun also noted that the Korean war of the 1950s ended in an armistice, not a peace deal, and that as a party to that armistice, China may feel entitled to cooperate in any work towards a new peace deal.
China has taken part in past US-North Korean dialogues.
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Evidence of Kim's arrival
On Monday, video started to appear across social media of a train arriving in Beijing — and then a motorcade exiting the train station.
Chinese social media platform WeChat was awash with rumors of the journey, and Sun said the mysterious train's trip "disrupted the whole railway schedule for northeast China, and people are observing that and drawing conclusions about who might be on that train."
The Kim family has historically traveled to Beijing via train, with Kim's father making the trip several times toward the end of his life.