- A North Korean official is believed to have arrived in Beijing late on Monday, but China has remained quiet about what could potentially be a historic visit by leader Kim Jong Un.
- While China doesn’t appear to be hiding the visit from the public eye, experts say North Korea likely told Beijing to keep the content of the meeting under wraps.
- Beijing might also be hesitant to publicize a high-profile China-North Korea meeting in case the outcome isn’t what it desires.
A mysterious armoured train and a large motorcade were seen in China’s capital late on Monday, believed to be carrying a high-level North Korean official.
Several videos of the presidential-style motorcade surfaced on social media, leading many to speculate that Kim Jong Un was making his first known trip outside of North Korea since becoming leader in 2011.
Quite possible Kim Jong-un is in Beijing. Video of large presidential-style motorcade driving through streets (complete with ambulance), train tracks from North Korea border cleared, areas of border crossing hidden behind unusual barriers. Meeting with Pres Xi before Trump? #CBC pic.twitter.com/YL6AWwPrlL
— Saša Petricic (@sasapetricic) March 26, 2018
Three sources told Bloomberg News the visiting official is Kim but China has yet to confirm any details regarding the occupant of the flashy motorcade, remaining quiet about the potentially historic visit.
The silence is China doing exactly what North Korea wants
While China hasn’t completely hid the visit, experts say North Korea likely told Beijing to keep the content of the meeting under wraps.
“The meeting has remained quiet at the request of the North Korea,” Jian Zhang, an expert on Chinese politics at the University of New South Wales, told Business Insider. “North Korea is usually quite secretive of its leader’s movements.”
Jian explained that Chinese media often remains tight-lipped on officials’ meetings with North Korean leaders. In the past, state media only confirmed the visit of Kim’s father Kim Jong Il once he had left China.
Additionally, Beijing may also be hesitant to publicize the high-profile meeting in case the meeting goes awry, according to Jian.
“They don’t know what the result of the meeting will be. They don’t want to publicize it too quickly,” Jian said.
Lowell Dittmer, a political scientist at University of California Berkeley, agreed that China is handling the meeting as it would highly sensitive information that doesn’t have a guaranteed outcome.
“China does not wish to publicize something if it does not know whether it will succeed,” Dittmer told Business Insider.
While Jian said it was “unlikely” that Kim himself had travelled to Beijing, China would need to tread carefully either way. With China currently cooperating on international sanctions against North Korea, relations between the two countries could be tense.
“China-North Korea relations have been very cold since the rise of Kim Jong Un in 2011,” Dittmer explained, adding that Kim has never met President Xi Jinping.
China doesn’t want to be left out of negotiations
China may have organised the visit in order to ensure they are involved with discussions about progress on the Korean Peninsula, say experts.
“From China’s perspective, there are clear signs of nervousness about being left out of negotiations between North and South Korea and especially North Korea and the US,” Dittmer said.
It’s also possible that China is pushing to host the talks between US President Donald Trump and Kim, which Trump has agreed to attend by May.
“One of the most challenging parts of the proposed meeting between Trump and Kim Jong Un is finding a suitable venue. Apparently Beijing is likely to be considered as a venue, Jian said.