North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un made a last-minute visit to Beijing Monday; marking the first time the brutal despot has left the Hermit Kingdom since taking control following his father’s death in 2011.
According to Bloomberg, the details of the trip remain murky with three North Korean officials confirming the leader’s visit to the Chinese capital.
The unannounced journey comes as the United States and North Korea prepare for their first face-to-face meeting between the communist ruler and President Trump; following months of escalating tensions between the two nations.
“If this meeting is confirmed, it may actually be more productive than a photo op between Trump and Kim in a few weeks,” said Melissa Hanham, an expert in North Korean studies.
“North Korea is often perceived as an ungrateful junior brother, but recent tensions and increased nuclear and missile capabilities mean China’s taking this seriously and doesn’t want to be left out of the process,” she added.
“Presumably, part of what’s on the agenda is the Chinese want a sense of what Kim expects or is seeking in the meeting with the U.S., if it ever occurs, as well as their attempt, of course, to influence it,” said another expert.
CAUGHT ON CAMERA: The Moment North Korean Defector DASHES Across DMZ
It’s not uncommon for North Korean defectors to find their way into South Korea, but nearly all cases involve routing through China before heading towards the staunch US ally.
Current estimates say only four people have successfully crossed the DMZ in several years.