Kim Jong-un secretly visits China, say reports
In his first move abroad since he took over in 2011, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un made a surprise visit to neighbour China the knowledge about which was largely confined to a handful of people.
Details about the visit were not known immediately since the people who knew about it sought anonymity given the sensitivity of the issue.
Kim's visit to Beijing became a speculation after a couple of Japanese channels reported about a special train which possibly took Kim to China through the northeastern border city of Dandong. In one footage, a train similar to that used by Kim's late father Kim Jong Il to visit China in 2011 was seen, making the speculation all the rifer.
Reports also said that the US had little knowledge about the secret visit made by Kim with one official of the Department of State even asking the media to talk to the Chinese for the confirmation.
Development takes place amid US-China tensions and ahead of Trump-Kim talks
The development took place at a time when the US has escalated a trade war with China and also gearing up for talks between its president Donald Trump and Kim.
The Chinese side has also shown interest in escalating the trade war with Washington while supporting the US-North Korea talks. Experts believe talks between Kim and Xi Jinping, the president of China, ahead of the former's meeting with Trump could be a sign that Beijing not wanting to be left out of the diplomatic engagement which is absorbing all attention in eastern Asia.
In early March, Trump spoke about his plan to meet Kim and the US's regional ally South Korea confirmed that the North Korean leader was willing to discuss the issue of abandoning his nuclear programme which has posed a big threat to the regional security and world at large. The details of the summit were yet to be finalised though it is likely to happen in May.
China and North Korea though have been traditional allies but their relations have been strained of late over Pyongyang's unrelenting nuclear ambitions.
The Chinese have been unable to rein in Kim and even backed sanctions imposed against him by the West. However, China treats North Korea as a buffer between itself and the regional foes like Japan and South Korea backed by their international competitor to the US and would never wish a collapse of the Kim regime as that would lead to a regional instability in terms of military adventures and refugee explosion.