Mar 27, 2018

Why Kim Jong-un would visit Beijing

A screen photo of Kim Jong-un and sparkling confetti at the Pyongyang Arena. Photo: Linda Davidson / The Washington Post via Getty Images

A day after a North Korean armored train arrived in Beijing there has been no official confirmation that Kim Jong-un was on board, but “three people with knowledge of the visit" tell Bloomberg Kim did in fact make the trip, while the Financial Times reports Kim visited Beijing and "it was assumed he had met Chinese president Xi Jinping."

Why it matters: This would be Kim's first known trip outside of North Korea since he took power in 2011 and, if he did meet Xi, his first meeting with a foreign leader. It comes ahead of a possible summit between Kim and President Trump, and at a tense time for relations between Beijing and Pyongyang.

Quick take: China is wary of direct talks between North Korea and the U.S., and it's no surprise they'd want to coordinate with Kim ahead of any such negotiations. This visit could show China wants to be able to represent its interests in the conversation.

Rumblings of a visit...

  • Beijing Rail posted an “unusually long list of delays to Weibo,” near the North Korea border, per NBC News.
  • "All news about North Korea was censored on China’s internet starting at the weekend," per the FT.
  • Japan’s Kyodo News reported a special train possibly took Kim through the border city of Dandong, and the train looks similar to the train Kim Jong-il took to China in 2011.
  • Reports of a motorcade driving through Beijing accompanied by an ambulance spurred rumors the head of state was in town.

Smart take, from the FT:

"Relations... have nearly collapsed in recent years as Beijing has followed the US lead in supporting multiple U.N. sanctions in an effort to pressure its neighbour to give up its nuclear weapons. But Mr Kim’s visit suggests that a dramatic improvement in relations could be on the cards. Foreign policy experts said Pyongyang was trying to patch things up with Beijing to end its isolation, while China was seeking Mr Kim’s endorsement to sit at the table during any peace talks."

Go deeper: How icy relations with China changed the game for North Korea

Go deeper

Debate night: Candidates' last face-off before Super Tuesday

Sanders, Biden, Klobuchar and Steyer in South Carolina on Feb. 25. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders wanted to keep his momentum after winning contests in New Hampshire and Nevada, while former Vice President Joe Biden hoped to keep his own campaign alive. The other five candidates were just trying to hang on.

What's happening: Seven contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination were in Charleston, South Carolina, for the tenth debate, just days before the South Carolina primary and a week before Super Tuesday. They spoke, sometimes over each other, about health care, Russian interference in the election, foreign policy the economy, gun control, marijuana, education, and race.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 31 mins ago - Politics & Policy

4 takeaways from the South Carolina debate

Former Vice President Joe Biden, right, makes a point during Tuesday's Democratic presidential debate, while Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders listens. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The 10th Democratic debate was billed as the most consequential of the primary thus far, but Tuesday night's high-stakes affair was at times awkward and unfocused as moderators struggled to rein in candidates desperate to make one last splash before Saturday's primary in South Carolina and Super Tuesday.

The big picture: After cementing himself as the Democratic favorite with a sweeping win in Nevada, Sen. Bernie Sanders came under fire as the front-runner for the first time on the debate stage. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who will be on the ballot for the first time next Tuesday, was a progressive foil once again, but he appeared more prepared after taking a drubbing at the Nevada debate.

Coronavirus spreads to Africa as U.S. soldier in South Korea tests positive

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

A 23-year-old American soldier stationed at Camp Carroll in South Korea has tested positive to the novel coronavirus, as the outbreak spreads to more countries.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,700 people and infected over 80,000 others, mostly in mainland China. Public health officials confirmed Tuesday the U.S. has 57 people with the novel coronavirus, mostly those repatriated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health