North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on an “unofficial visit” to Beijing, China’s state-run media reported late Tuesday.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, citing North Korean state radio, reported that Kim had visited China between Sunday and Wednesday at Xi’s invitation and was accompanied by his wife, Ri Sol Ju.
Xi held talks with Kim at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing and he and his wife Peng Liyuan hosted a banquet for Kim and his wife, the official Xinhua news agency said. They also watched an art performance together, the news agency said.
Kim Jong Un apparently arrived in Beijing on board a heavily guarded 21-car train, which veteran North Korea watchers observed to resemble the trains that ferried his father, Kim Jong Il, to meetings in China and Russia.
The visit to China is Kim Jong Il’s first known trip outside North Korea since he succeeded Kim Jong Il upon his father’s death in 2011.
The North Korean leader is expected to hold separate summits with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in late April and U.S. President Donald Trump in May. Analysts say Kim would have felt a need to consult with his country’s traditional ally ahead of his planned meetings.
China remains North Korea’s only major ally and chief provider of energy, aid and trade that keep the country’s broken economy afloat.
The North’s diplomatic outreach to Seoul and Washington came after an unusually provocative year when it conducted its most powerful nuclear test to date and three ICBMs tests designed to target the U.S. mainland.
The developments were interpreted as the North being desperate to break out of isolation and improve its economy after being squeezed by heavy sanctions.
Fox News’ Katherine Lam and The Associated Press contributed to this report.