Kim Jong Un reportedly makes history with first visit to China as head of state

  • 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. 

RELATED: Everything you didn't know about Kim Jong Un

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1. While Kim Jong Un's birthday on January 8 is a national holiday, it is unknown exactly how old the North Korean leader is. It's widely believed he is in his early-mid thirties. In 2016, the U.S. Treasury Department listed his birth year as 1984 when they placed sanctions on North Korea.

 (KCNA via REUTERS)

2. Kim Jong Un is the world's youngest leader, according to the date listed by the Treasury. 

(STR/AFP/Getty Images)

3. Kim Jong Un is very passionate about basketball. He is reportedly a big fan of Michael Jordan and has a friendly relationship with Jordan's former Chicago Bulls teammate Dennis Rodman. Rodman has visited the secluded nation multiple times and even sang him "Happy Birthday" before an exhibition game in Jan. 2014. 

(REUTERS/KCNA)

4. Kim Jong Un reportedly has a love for smoking, whiskey and cheese

(KCNA/via Reuters)

5. Kim Jong Un's older half-brother Kim Jong Nam was killed in Feb. 2017 by two women who smeared VX nerve agent on his face at an airport in Kuala Lumpur. The women were arrested following his death. Many believe the hit was directed by North Korea. 

(KCNA; REUTERS)

6. Kim Jong Un has two college degrees. One is in physics from Kim il Sung University and another as an Army officer obtained from the Kim Il Sung Military University.

(KCNA/REUTERS)

7. Kim Jong Un attended boarding school in Switzerland. It is widely disputed how much time he spent at the school. Most reports say he was abroad from 1998-2000. 

(KCNA/REUTERS)

8. Kim Jong Un is the only general in the world that does not have any military experience. 

(KCNA/REUTERS)

9. He married Ri Sol Ju in 2009. The couple has at least one daughter named Ju Ae. 

(KCNA/REUTERS)

10. Kim Jong Un had his uncle Jang Song Thaek arrested and executed for treachery in 2013. 

(REUTERS/Kyodo)

11. Kim Jong Un hand selected North Korea's first all-female music group -- Moranbong Band. They made their debut in 2012. 

(ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)

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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.

RELATED: North and South Korea hold historic meetings

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shakes hands with a member of the special delegation of South Korea's President in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 6, 2018. KCNA/via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un greets a member of the special delegation of South Korea's President at a dinner in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 6, 2018. KCNA/via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (not in picture) meets members of the special delegation of South Korea's President in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 6, 2018. KCNA/via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets members of the special delegation of South Korea's President in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 6, 2018. KCNA/via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets members of the special delegation of South Korea's President in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 6, 2018. KCNA/via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shakes hands with a member of the special delegation of South Korea's President in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 6, 2018. KCNA/via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets members of the special delegation of South Korea's President in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 6, 2018. KCNA/via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shakes hands with a member of the special delegation of South Korea's President in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 6, 2018. KCNA/via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT.
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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. 

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SEE ALSO: Mysterious, high-security train from North Korea to Beijing sparks rumors that Kim Jong Un is in China

 

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