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N. Korean train enters China, fuels talk of Kim visit

Updated January 08, 2019

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In Dandong dozens of security vehicles and officials blocked the roads around the train station on Monday. — AFP/File
In Dandong dozens of security vehicles and officials blocked the roads around the train station on Monday. — AFP/File

SEOUL: A special North Korean train entered China late Monday, Yonhap news agency reported, raising speculation that leader Kim Jong-un could be on his way to Beijing. The train crossed the border around 10:15pm local time (1315 GMT) and was expected in the Chinese capital on Tuesday morning, the Southern news agency reported, citing an informed source.

None of Kim’s 2018 trips to China were announced in advance, and the earliest indications of the first one — before Kim met either Moon or Trump — came when his train was spotted in Beijing.

In the Chinese border city of Dandong, dozens of security vehicles and officials blocked the roads around the train station on Monday before the train passed through, Yonhap reported, before reopening them afterwards. It had not been confirmed whether a senior North Korean official was on board, it quoted its source as saying.

But Japan’s Kyodo news agency said hotel guests in Dandong had not been allowed to enter rooms facing the river that forms the border on Monday afternoon, in what it cited sources describing as “an apparent move to prevent the train from being seen”.

Kim’s birthday is reportedly on Tuesday, although that has never been confirmed by Pyongyang, and a visit by him to China would be likely to heighten speculation about a second Kim-Trump summit.

Negotiations were underway on the location of their next meeting, Trump said on Sunday, while remaining evasive on its timing.

The US president said last week he had received a “great letter” from the North Korean leader but declined to reveal its contents. “We are negotiating a location,” he told reporters. “They do want to meet and we want to meet and we’ll see what happens.”

Washington is demanding Pyongyang gives up its nuclear arsenal before any relief from economic sanctions is granted, while the North is insisting on immediate concessions from the US.

Published in Dawn, January 8th, 2019

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