South Korean officials were taking seriously Tuesday the possibility that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may have made a surprise visit to China.
They were responding to local media reports that Kim may have been aboard a special train bound for Beijing a day earlier, even though the reclusive state’s leader is not known to have ever traveled abroad since taking power in 2011.
“Whether Workers’ Party of Korea Chairman Kim Jong-un is visiting China has not been verified,” a South Korean Foreign Ministry official was quoted as saying by Yonhap News Agency.
“Our government is trying to thoroughly grasp the related situation, including whether the reports are true,” the official said.
North Korea watchers have also been speculating about whether Kim Jong-un may have sent another high-ranking member of Pyongyang’s regime to China, such as his sister Kim Yo-jong, who visited South Korea for the opening of the Winter Olympics last month.
Her trip to the Games paved the way for a planned inter-Korean summit in April, which would be the first meeting of its kind in more than a decade.
Analysts have pointed out that Kim might want to first hold talks with China, with an historic summit with U.S. President Donald Trump also expected in May.
According to Yonhap, an official from Seoul’s presidential office confirmed they are considering “all possibilities”.
The unnamed official, who wished to remain anonymous, admitted to reporters that South Korea would not be able to unilaterally disclose the details even if Seoul were to find out more about the situation.