Kim Jong-un and the mystery of the 'special green train'

And the evidence, including reports from Japan, South Korea and China, suggests the train delivered to Beijing Kim Jong-un on an unexpected trip that would mark his first known foray outside his country since becoming North Korea's Supreme Leader in 2011.

The derogatory nickname "Fatty the Third" is commonly used in China to refer to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who represents the third phase of succession in the relatively isolated regime.

If confirmed, it would mark Kim's first trip overseas since coming to power in 2011 and signal an intriguing twist in a rapid diplomatic thaw that has opened the door to separate summits between Kim and the presidents of South Korea and the United States.

There were no reports of any visit in Chinese media and government spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she did not know of any visits by senior North Korean officials.

The train has tinted windows, and according to a 2009 South Korea news report based off of classified information about how Kim Jong Il traveled, is heavily armored.

North Korea, too, has cause to seek China's ear.

Guides tell visitors that the carriage was used as a mobile office - proof, they insist, that the leaders toiled tirelessly for the people.

There were also reports about heavy security on the China-North Korea border and later at a guesthouse where prominent North Koreans have stayed in the past. Since Kim and Chinese President Xi became leaders of their countries, the two have never met.

North Korean news media has a history of publishing its former leader's China visits but only after he almost finished his trips, probably because of security reasons.

"As North Korea will have an inter-Korean summit in April and the Pyongyang-Washington summit in May, amid a worsening economic situation affected by worldwide sanctions, one country that the North most urgently needs to mend fences with is China", Chung continued.

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

Speculation remains rife about whether Kim or his sister Kim Yo Jong or North Korea's ceremonial leader Kim Yong Nam was visiting Beijing.

South Korea said on Tuesday it was closely watching events that are unfolding rapidly in Beijing.

"Numerous other senior officials could and would have taken a private plane, possibly departing without any fanfare in Pyongyang and arranging to establish an unobtrusive arrival with the Chinese authorities", Madden said. The approach led to plans for a summit between Moon and Kim. If true, it would be Kim's first visit to China and his first foreign trip since his ascension as leader in 2011.

The manager of a shop outside Beijing railway station described seeing "unusual" scenes on Monday afternoon.

China's propaganda ministry released a notice on Monday banning state media from reporting news related to North Korea, one journalist who works for a Chinese state-run media outlet told Reuters.

Kim Jong Il used his high-security trains during his seven visits to China and three to Russian Federation during his 1994-2011 term, according to Agence France-Presse.

Mr Kim is not thought to have left North Korea since taking power seven years ago.


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