After a slow moving, presumably bulletproof train with tinted windows was seen pulling into the central train station in Beijing, rumors began to circulate that Kim Jong-Un had made a rare foreign trip to hold secret meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Kim Jong-Un’s China visit has yet to be officially confirmed.
The Kim dictators rarely meet with foreign leaders. If it is correct to assume that Kim Jong-Un met with President Xi, it could be related to North Korea’s upcoming meeting with the US. The communist dictator has yet to meet with a foreign leader in his six years in power. Analysts believe Kim Jong-Un’s China visit could indicate a need for Pyongyang to consult with their closest economic and political ally ahead of meetings with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea next month and US President Donald Trump in May.
Analysts claim it would be an “unthinkable” snub for Kim Jong-Un to meet with President Trump or President Moon without first meeting President Xi. China remains North Korea’s most important economic and trading partner, as well as a military support system. Despite the importance of the Beijing Pyongyang relationship, Kim Jong-Un has never met President Xi. Although historically close, the Chinese and Korean has chilled since Kim Jong-Un has taken over as leader.
After taking power, Kim Jong-Un did what all good communist leaders do and purged the upper echelons of the North Korean government, including many officials with ties to China. Proving that blood may be thicker than water, but power is thicker than both, the renegade dictator even had his own uncle, Jang Song Thaek, executed in the purge.
Pyongyang further weakened this historically important relationship with ongoing nuclear testing and missile launches despite China’s goal of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula. An earthquake was felt last year in China believed to have been caused by Pyongyang’s underground nuclear testing.
Although China has been accused of violating UN sanctions, they have at least publicly agreed to sanction North Korea. James Hoare, an associate fellow at Chatham House and former UK diplomat in North Korea, explained, “The North Korean Chinese relationship has not been very good in recent years, particularly over China’s acceptance of international sanctions and degree of implementing them. These will be subjects the North Koreans are keen to talk about.”
The Kim regime has been well known for its paranoia. This paranoia is reflected in nearly everything Kim Jong-Un does, including travel. The communist dictator and his predecessors rarely traveled outside of North Korea, making Kim Jong-Un’s China visit on Monday of particular interest.
Like his predecessors, Kim Jong-Un travels in a bulletproof, tinted glass train. According to intelligence reports from South Korea, the dictator has 90 train carriages, all optimized to the communist leader’s security needs. The train he was said to be traveling in on Monday was comprised of 21 train cars, all painted green.
The intelligence from South Korea, made public via South Korean news in 2009, three trains are dispatched when the dictator travels. A security train travels ahead of the dictator’s train, while a third follows closely behind holding supplies and bodyguards. Because each of the train cars must be bulletproof, they weigh thousands of pounds more than an average train. This means the train cannot pick up speed, giving the Kim trains their characteristic slow crawl, seen on Monday. The trains are said to have an maximum speed of 37 miles per hour.
The 2009 report came during the rule of Kim Jong-Il, Kim Jong-Un’s father. Kim Jong-Il was said to be afraid of flying, so train travel became the preferred means of travel, ironic as the dictator eventually died of a heart attack on one of his trains. In his time, the report claims twenty train stations were built in North Korea just for his use. When he traveled, the security train held would depart with 100 officers onboard, pausing at stations to check the tracks and check for bombs and other security threats, while military airplanes and helicopters would fly above.
One South Korea newspaper, Chosun Ilbo, wrote, “Kim’s train is armored and also contains conference rooms, an audience chamber and bedrooms. Satellite phone connections and flat screen TVs have been installed so that the North Korean leader can be briefed and issue orders.”
The Opulence of a Dictator
While millions in North Korea starve, state controlled media in North Korea has occasionally publicized images of the Kims inside of their trains, revealing the luxurious life of a dictator. Images have revealed flat screen TVs, laptops, banquets, and performers clad in evening gowns and tuxedos.
One Russian official, Konstantin Pulikovsky, had the unique experience of traveling on Kim Jong-Il’s train while the communist dictator traveled through Russia. Pulikovsky later wrote, about the decadence he saw onboard the Kim train. Fresh lobster and cases of Burgundy and Bordeaux wine were shipped along the trains route to satisfy the dictator’s notoriously voracious appetites. Pulikovsky claims one could order any kind of food desired and have it made by the chefs onboard, “It was possible to order any dish of Russian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and French cuisine.” Meanwhile in North Korea at least two in five people is said to be undernourished, while South Korean scientists say North Koreans are on average 2-3 inches shorter than South Koreans due to malnutrition. The Russian official also noted the train was manned by an enormous staff including “beautiful lady conductors” who would serenade Kim Jong-Il.
Less is known about Kim Jong-Un, who has led North Korea since 2011, but he is said to be at least as paranoid and gluttonous as his late father. Reports indicate the younger Kim loves Cristal champagne, Hennessy cognac, and Swiss cheese. There’s no way to know what kind of decadence was indulged in on Kim Jong-Un’s China visit.
Leaving the Station
Reports indicate the train believed to be carrying Kim Jong-Un left Beijing on Tuesday after a heavily guarded motorcade reached the train station, implying a high ranking official was onboard the train.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs deflected questions when asked directly about Kim Jong-Un’s China visit. The White House likewise failed to confirm speculations that the communist leaders were holding talks in Beijing.