With everyone either ignorant of or covering for the journey, it allows Kim to control the narrative and possibly even smuggle back tons of goods in his train.
- Kim Jong Un’s family’s armored train has departed Beijing after causing huge delays with its visit to China.
- But the world is no wiser as to why the train came and went — and that’s a big win for Kim.
- Despite plenty of evidence suggesting Kim, or at least high-level North Korean officials, were aboard, China denied knowing about the train.
- North Korea also said nothing, and South Korea appeared in the dark.
- With everyone either ignorant of or covering for the journey, it allows Kim to control the narrative and possibly even smuggle back tons of goods in his train.
Kim Jong Un’s family’s armored train has departed Beijing after causing huge delays in train and street traffic, but the world is no wiser as to why the train came and went — and that’s a big win for Kim.
Sources told Bloomberg News and Reuters that the train carried Kim; and a massive motorcade in the city suggests a high-level visit, but not South Korean, Chinese, or North Korean entity has yet confirmed what would be a historic visit.
Hua Chunying, China’s foreign ministry spokesman, said he has no idea who was on the train or in the motorcade. South Korea was “watching things in Beijing very closely, while keeping all possibilities open,” according to a Reuters report citing a senior official in Seoul.
So despite a massively disruptive train and motorcade, Beijing knows nothing of the journey. Despite a massive intelligence organization dedicated to tracking the movement of the Kim family, South Korea appears to know little about the trip. And despite the Kim family’s train leaving North Korea for Beijing, Pyongyang hasn’t said a word.
But the dense cloud of mystery surrounding the visit creates an ideal situation for Kim.
Besides concerns for Kim and his family’s personal safety, the hushed meeting suggests North Korea has enough leverage with China to have them keep the trip quiet, and enough finesse to orchestrate a massive move like this without alerting South Korea.
Not even trying to be sneaky, but still getting away with it
Experts tell Business Insider that sometimes diplomacy is best conducted in secrecy, to keep conversations candid and the pressure off diplomats.
But the trip wasn’t exactly subtle. Kim Jong Un could have flown in on a plane and quietly landed in Beijing instead of delaying train traffic all across northeast China, one of the more densely populated places on earth.
If anything, the trip recalls those Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il made in the 2000s, in that it used his own personal train, which moves slowly and requires a huge security detail.
Chad O’Carroll, the managing director of the Korea Risk Group, tweeted that a press blackout on Kim Jong Il’s trips was customary, and suggested it may indicate that Kim is indeed visiting the country this time.
The last time that specific train carried someone other than North Korea’s supreme leader to Beijing was in 1983, when Kim Jong Il, not yet in charge, made the journey, Andray Abrahamian, the senior advisor to Choson Exchange tweeted.
But there is perhaps a simple reason why North Korea would send a train to China, and China would deny it — smuggling.
A train can haul more than a plane, and with all sides denying the visit for now, it’s unlikely inspectors could get a look inside to verify it wasn’t filled with banned items like luxury goods — or nuclear missile components.