Amid very tight security, 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.
South Korea Chosun Ilbo newspaper, citing an unnamed senior intelligence official, said the delegation had included North Korea’s Leader, Jong Un.
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.
No specific source was cited and the third location was not specified but Hankyoreh said the location could still be in China.
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.