Train believed carrying top North Korean delegation leaves Beijing

BEIJING/SEOUL, March 27 (Reuters) - A train believed to be carrying a senior North Korean delegation left the Chinese capital on Tuesday following a dramatic whirlwind visit that some reports said included the country's leader, Kim Jong Un.

The conservative South Korea Chosun Ilbo newspaper, citing an unnamed senior intelligence official, said the delegation had included Kim and that he had since left to return to North Korea.

South Korea's left-leaning press Hankyoreh also reported Kim had traveled to Beijing for meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday afternoon before leaving for a "third location" on Tuesday. It did not cite specific sources.

The Hankyoreh did not specify where the "third location" was but said it could be in China.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watches a performance given with splendor at the People's Theatre on Wednesday to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the State Merited Chorus in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on February 23, 2017. 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. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watches a performance given with splendor at the People's Theatre on Wednesday to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the State Merited Chorus in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on February 23, 2017. 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. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Samchon Catfish Farm, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on February 21, 2017. KCNA/Handout 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. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Samchon Catfish Farm, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on February 21, 2017. KCNA/Handout 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. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Samchon Catfish Farm, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on February 21, 2017. KCNA/Handout 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. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Samchon Catfish Farm, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on February 21, 2017. KCNA/Handout 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. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un guides the test-fire of Pukguksong-2 on the spot, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang February 13, 2017. KCNA/Handout 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. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun on the birth anniversary of late leader Kim Jong Il (the Day of the Shining Star), to pay tribute to him, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on February 16, 2017. KCNA/Handout 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. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets Song Tao, the head of the China's Communist Party� International Department who led a Chinese art troupe to North Korea for the April Spring Friendship Art Festival, in this handout photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 15, 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 and his wife Ri Sol Ju meet with Song Tao, head of the International Department of Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang April 17, 2018. KCNA/via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks in Beijing as he paid an unofficial visit to China, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang March 28, 2018. KCNA/via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his wife Ri Sol Ju are seen in Beijing, as he paid an unofficial visit to China, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang March 28, 2018. KCNA/via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his wife Ri Sol Ju are seen near a train as he paid an unofficial visit to China, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang March 28, 2018. KCNA/via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets members of the high-level delegation of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea which visited South Korea to attend the opening ceremony of the 23rd Winter Olympics in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) February 13, 2018. KCNA/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA
FILE PHOTO: North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un speaks during a New Year's Day speech in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on January 1, 2018. KCNA/via REUTERS/File Photo 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. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. SOUTH KOREA OUT.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the national science centre in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang January 12, 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 makes a closing remark at 5th Conference of Cell Chairpersons of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) on December 23 in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang December 24, 2017. KCNA/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un gives opening remarks at the 5th Conference of Cell Chairpersons of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on December 22,2017. KCNA/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS
North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un is seen during the inspection of a potato flour factory in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang December 6, 2017. 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
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Hong Kong's South China Morning Post said Kim was on the train that left Beijing, citing two anonymous sources.

South Korea said it was closely watching events in Beijing, where a foreign ministry spokeswoman deflected a question on whether Kim, his sister or some other senior North Korean was visiting. South Korea's spy agency declined to confirm the report.

"At present I have no understanding of the situation you mention. If there is news we will release it," foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular daily briefing.

Diplomatic sources in Beijing said a senior North Korean official was in town, but did not know exactly who.

Bloomberg, citing three unidentified sources, reported late on Monday that Kim was in Beijing in what would be his first known trip outside North Korea since taking power in 2011.

The unconfirmed visit came ahead of planned summit meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump.

"The presidential Blue House is watching things in Beijing very closely, while keeping all possibilities open," said the senior official in Seoul, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Improving ties between North Korea, which is pursuing nuclear and missile programs in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions, and China would be a positive sign before the planned summits, he said.

A Reuters reporter saw a convoy leave Beijing's Diaoyutai State Guest House, where senior foreign leaders often stay, and drive north on Tuesday morning. It was unclear where the convoy was headed.

Later, a Reuters journalist saw what was believed to be the delegation's train pulling out of a Beijing station. The group was reported to have arrived in China on Sunday after crossing from North Korea in the border city of Dandong.

A senior U.S. official who follows North Korea closely said the available evidence suggested that Kim had traveled to Beijing to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping, but stressed that has not been confirmed.

Underscoring the mystery, one senior Beijing-based diplomatic source told Reuters simply: "We just don't know."

One source with ties to China's leadership said it was possible Kim's younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, was in town. She visited South Korea for the Winter Olympics last month, paving the way for a summit between the two Koreas.

South Korean news agency Newsis reported that Kim Yo Jong and the North's ceremonial leader, Kim Yong Nam, were visiting Beijing, citing an unidentified North Korea-related source in Beijing.

The pair visited South Korean President Moon Jae-in at his office in Seoul during the Winter Olympics in February.

The U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was unlikely Kim Jong Un would have sent his sister on such an important mission, unlike her ceremonial visit to South Korea for the Olympics.

On the contrary, the official said, a summit with Xi would underscore Kim's standing as a world leader.

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Kim Yo Jong at the 2018 Winter Olympics
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Kim Yo Jong at the 2018 Winter Olympics
North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un's younger sister Kim Yo Jong arrives at Incheon International Airport, South Korea, in this photo taken by Kyodo February 9, 2018. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN. THIS PICTURE WAS PROCESSED BY REUTERS TO ENHANCE QUALITY. AN UNPROCESSED VERSION WILL BE PROVIDED SEPARATELY.
North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un's younger sister Kim Yo Jong arrives at Incheon International Airport, South Korea, in this photo taken by Kyodo February 9, 2018. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN.
Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Opening ceremony ? Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium - Pyeongchang, South Korea ? February 9, 2018 - IOC President Thomas Bach and President of South Korea Moon Jae-in, his wife Kim Jung-Sook and Kim Yo-Jong, the sister of North Koreas leader Kim Jong-un during the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Opening ceremony ? Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium - Pyeongchang, South Korea ? February 9, 2018 - President of South Korea Moon Jae-in, his wife Kim Jung-Sook, Kim Yo-Jong, the sister of North Koreas leader Kim Jong-un and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier during the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Karen Pence (front R), wife of US Vice President Mike Pence, North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un's sister Kim Yo Jong (top C), North Korea's ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam (top 2nd L), Kim Jung-Sook (front C), the wife of South Korea's President Moon Jae-in (front L), attend the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Pyeongchang Stadium on February 9, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Odd ANDERSEN (Photo credit should read ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Ice Hockey ? Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Women Preliminary Round Match - Switzerland v Korea - Kwandong Hockey Centre, Gangneung, South Korea ? February 10, 2018 - Kim Yo Jong claps as Kim Yong Nam looks, in front of Korea players. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor
Ice Hockey ? Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Women Preliminary Round Match - Switzerland v Korea - Kwandong Hockey Centre, Gangneung, South Korea ? February 10, 2018 - Kim Yong Nam claps as he is flanked by Korean President Moon Jae-in, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach and Kim Yo Jong. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor
Ice Hockey ? Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Women Preliminary Round Match - Switzerland v Korea - Kwandong Hockey Centre, Gangneung, South Korea ? February 10, 2018 - Kim Yong Nam and Kim Yo Jong attend. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor
Ice Hockey ? Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Women Preliminary Round Match - Switzerland v Korea - Kwandong Hockey Centre, Gangneung, South Korea ? February 10, 2018 - Kim Yo Jong looks on. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor
Ice Hockey ? Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Women Preliminary Round Match - Switzerland v Korea - Kwandong Hockey Centre, Gangneung, South Korea ? February 10, 2018 - Kim Yong Nam and Kim Yo Jong clap. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor
Ice Hockey ? Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Women Preliminary Round Match - Switzerland v Korea - Kwandong Hockey Centre, Gangneung, South Korea ? February 10, 2018 - Kim Yo Jong claps next to Kim Yong Nam in front of Korea players. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor
Ice Hockey ? Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Women Preliminary Round Match - Switzerland v Korea - Kwandong Hockey Centre, Gangneung, South Korea ? February 10, 2018 - Kim Yo Jong claps next to Kim Yong Nam. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Opening ceremony ? Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium - Pyeongchang, South Korea ? February 9, 2018 - IOC President Thomas Bach, President of South Korea Moon Jae-in, his wife Kim Jung-Sook, President of the Presidium of the Supreme People?s Assembly of North Korea Kim Young Nam, Kim Yo-Jong, the sister of North Koreas leader Kim Jong-un greet united Korea team during the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Ice Hockey ? Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Women Preliminary Round Match - Switzerland v Korea - Kwandong Hockey Centre, Gangneung, South Korea ? February 10, 2018 - Kim Yo Jong shakes hands with a man. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor
Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Opening ceremony ? Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium - Pyeongchang, South Korea ? February 9, 2018 - President of South Korea Moon Jae-in, his wife Kim Jung-Sook, President of the Presidium of the Supreme People?s Assembly of North Korea Kim Young Nam, Kim Yo-Jong, the sister of North Koreas leader Kim Jong-un, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Ice Hockey ? Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Women Preliminary Round Match - Switzerland v Korea - Kwandong Hockey Centre, Gangneung, South Korea ? February 10, 2018 - Kim Yong Nam, Kim Yo Jong and International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach attend match. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor
Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Opening ceremony ? Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium - Pyeongchang, South Korea ? February 9, 2018 - President of South Korea Moon Jae-in, his wife Kim Jung-Sook, resident of the Presidium of the Supreme People?s Assembly of North Korea Kim Young Nam and Kim Yo-Jong, the sister of North Koreas leader Kim Jong-un during the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Opening ceremony ? Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium - Pyeongchang, South Korea ? February 9, 2018 - President of South Korea Moon Jae-in, his wife Kim Jung-Sook, resident of the Presidium of the Supreme People?s Assembly of North Korea Kim Young Nam and Kim Yo-Jong, the sister of North Koreas leader Kim Jong-un during the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Opening ceremony ? Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium - Pyeongchang, South Korea ? February 9, 2018 - President of South Korea Moon Jae-in, his wife Kim Jung-Sook and Kim Yo-Jong, the sister of North Koreas leader Kim Jong-un during the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Opening ceremony ? Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium - Pyeongchang, South Korea ? February 9, 2018 - President of South Korea Moon Jae-in, his wife Kim Jung-Sook, Kim Yo-Jong, the sister of North Koreas leader Kim Jong-un and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier during the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Opening ceremony ? Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium - Pyeongchang, South Korea ? February 9, 2018 - IOC President Thomas Bach and President of South Korea Moon Jae-in, his wife Kim Jung-Sook and Kim Yo-Jong, the sister of North Koreas leader Kim Jong-un during the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
North Korea's ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam (R) and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's sister Kim Yo Jong (L) leave after the women's preliminary round ice hockey match between Switzerland and the Unified Korean team during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung on February 10, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Jung Yeon-je (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's sister Kim Yo Jong (R) and North Korea's ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam attend the women's preliminary round ice hockey match between Switzerland and the Unified Korean team during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung on February 10, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 10: (L-R) IOC President Thomas Bach, North Korean ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam and Kim Yo-jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, attend the Women's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round - Group B game between Switzerland and Korea on day one of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Kwandong Hockey Centre on February 10, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 10: IOC President Thomas Bach, North Korean ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam and Kim Yo Jong watch as Switzerland plays Korea during the Women's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round - Group B game on day one of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Kwandong Hockey Centre on February 10, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's sister Kim Yo Jong (R) and North Korea's ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam watch the women's preliminary round ice hockey match between Switzerland and the Unified Korean team during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung on February 10, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 9: Head of State of North Korea Kim Yong-nam and Kim Yo-jong, sister of President of North Korea Kim Jong-un, below Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe during the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium on February 9, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
9th February 2018, Pyeongchang, South Korea; 2018 Winter Olympic Games; Opening Ceremony at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium; South Korean President Moon Jae-in declaring open the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games with North Korea's Kim Yo-jong in the group picture (Photo by Roland Harrison/Action Plus via Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 9: President of North Korea Kim Yong-nam and Kim Yo-jong, sister of President of North Korea Kim Jong-un during the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium on February 9, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un's sister Kim Yo Jong waves during the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Pyeongchang Stadium on February 9, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Odd ANDERSEN (Photo credit should read ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
US Vice President Mike Pence (front L), Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (front R), North Korea's ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam (back 2nd L) and North Korea's Kim Jong Un;s sister Kim Yo Jong (back R) watch the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Pyeongchang Stadium on February 9, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Patrick Semansky (Photo credit should read PATRICK SEMANSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korea's Kim Jong Un's sister Kim Yo Jong (R) leaves after the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Pyeongchang Stadium on February 9, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Patrick Semansky (Photo credit should read PATRICK SEMANSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korea's Kim Jong Un's sister Kim Yo Jong arrives for the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Pyeongchang Stadium on February 9, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Patrick Semansky (Photo credit should read PATRICK SEMANSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - North Korea's Kim Jong Un's sister Kim Yo Jong arrives for the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Pyeongchang Stadium on February 9, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Patrick Semansky (Photo credit should read PATRICK SEMANSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 09: Kim Yo-jong shakes hands with President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in during the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium on February 9, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 09: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un's sister Kim Yo Jong (back left) watch on during the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium on February 9, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 09: Kim Yo-jong and President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in applaud during the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium on February 9, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 09: Kim Yo-jong attends during the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium on February 9, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
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"LOT OF LEVERAGE"

Xi and Kim Jong Un had reasons to meet in advance of Kim's meetings with Moon and possibly Trump, the U.S. official said.

"Xi has met Trump, and in many respects learned how to deal with him better than some people here do," the official said.

"At the same time, despite the recent tensions, he needs to know what Kim has in mind for dealing with the South and the U.S., and he still has a lot of leverage with the North."

Japanese media reported on Monday that a high-ranking Pyongyang official appeared to have arrived by train in Beijing.

The Blue House official said South Korea had been aware of "related movements" in North Korea, such as the train, for a few days but he could not confirm whether Kim or another high-ranking North Korean official was visiting China.

Beijing is the main ally of secretive and isolated North Korea, as well as its biggest trading partner.

China has not confirmed any visit by a North Korean but has not totally censored speculation.

There were posts on Chinese social media talking about the possibility Kim Jong Un was in China, some citing family members in Dandong. The rail journey between Dandong and Beijing covers more than 1,100 km (680 miles). It takes at least 14 hours by ordinary service, according to Chinese railway timetables.

The North Korean leader is due to hold separate summits with South Korea in late April and the United States in May.

"The fact that the summits are being held has been beyond our expectations. Right now, the situation surrounding the Korean peninsula is moving very quickly and it would be inadvisable to think with prejudice," the Blue House official said.

Kim Jong Un's father, Kim Jong Il, met then-president Jiang Zemin in China in 2000 before a summit between the two Koreas in June that year.

Kim Jong Il was considered at the time to have made the visit to reaffirm close ties with China.

"North Korea likely wants to confirm its relationship with China and believes it has some leverage with which it can ask for things from China," said Yoo Ho-yeol, Professor of North Korean studies at Seoul's Korea University.

"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." (Reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING and Christine Kim in SEOUL Additional reporting by Heekyong Yang in SEOUL and John Walcott in WASHINGTON Editing by Paul Tait and Nick Macfie)

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