Kim Jong Un has made his first known trip abroad since becoming North Korea's leader in 2011—and it wasn't to Mar-a-Lago. After days of rumors sparked by the arrival of a mysterious North Korean train in Beijing, Chinese and North Korean officials have confirmed that Kim met China's President Xi Jinping for talks, arriving Sunday and leaving Tuesday, the BBC reports. According to state-run media in China, the leaders held "successful talks" in which Kim promised to proceed with denuclearization as long as the US and South Korea "respond to our efforts with goodwill." Analysts say the trip, described by North Korean media as a "milestone," appears to have been a "courtesy visit" ahead of expected North Korean talks with President Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
China, after months of strained relations, "was getting concerned it could be left out of any initial political agreements that Moon and Kim or Trump and Kim could come to," Michael Kovrig at the International Crisis Group tells the AP. "This is China asserting its regional hegemony and influence, saying: 'Hey, you talk to me first.'" Reuters notes that even if progress is made with denuclearization, Pyongyang may find it difficult to convince the public the move is necessary after decades of propaganda stating the opposite. Analysts say that if a deal is reached, the country is likely to make getting rid of its nuclear weapons a slow, incremental process that happens as sanctions are lifted and its economy improves. They say Pyongyang is likely to portray any deal as an American and South Korean "surrender."