An image taken on March 25 facing southwest from Qingnian Street to the southernmost section of the tracks at Dandong Station (a few hundred meters from the Yalu River) shows the view blocked by boards and scaffolding. Image: Daily NK
Daily NK has learned from sources in Dandong, China, of evidence suggesting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un or another high-level official may have made their way through the city by train on their way towards Beijing. If it is confirmed to be Kim Jong Un, it would be his first trip abroad since coming to power in 2011.
A source in the city informed Daily NK on March 26 of measures put in place “starting last week, including the installation of large boards supported by scaffolding around the (previously open) sides of Dandong Station, seemingly in order to block the view of a train coming from North Korea.”
He described the scene at Dandong Station on March 25, where local police throughout the day were rehearsing for the rapid deployment of metal road barriers. Then at around 10 pm, large boards were installed blocking the view of the tracks at the southeast corner of the station (crossing over Qingnian St), just a few hundred meters from the Yalu River.
“Access to Dandong Station was completely blocked at 10 pm, before two trains passed through between 10:20 and 10:40 pm heading in the direction of Shenyang,” he said.
The source also relayed an account from an individual in the North Korean military, who said that security was especially high surrounding the Sino-Korea Friendship Bridge connecting Sinuiju to Dandong, and that the authorities had seized a ship that was loitering near the bridge a few days prior.
“The way the military was patrolling around the bridge was very similar to their behavior at the same location when Kim Jong Il’s train crossed over in 2011, and the general atmosphere is similar as well,” he said.
Chinese police at Dandong Station practiced deploying and retracting metal barriers on roads leading into the station on March 25. Image: Daily NK
After his 2011 visit, Kim Jong Il traveled along the same tracks from Beijing through Shenyang and Dandong on his way back into North Korea. At that time, the Chinese authorities similarly blocked access to, and views of, Dandong Station in addition to deploying border guards throughout the area surrounding the Sino-Korea Friendship Bridge.
One Dandong resident with whom our source spoke said in response to the heightened security that “a high-level North Korean cadre” seems to have come through “at around 10 pm.”
While there has been no confirmation yet as to the identity of the passenger aboard the North Korean train, many are speculating that it is either Kim Jong Un or another high-level individual such as his sister Kim Yo Jong or President of the Supreme People’s Assembly Kim Yong Nam.
A separate source in China informed Daily NK that “starting last weekend, security was stepped-up around both Dandong Station and Dandong Customs.” The source described how trucks entering customs on Friday (March 23) were not released until the morning of March 26.
“It seems like a high-level North Korean cadre is coming to China,” he said, describing a palpable feeling of anticipation.
A Daily NK source in Beijing spoke of a similar atmosphere in the capital in the days before the train’s passage through Dandong. He said that the Chinese Foreign Office held a major, unprecedented meeting with North Korean embassy officials a week prior, suggesting a significant move was in the works.
“Rumors are abound of a change in Sino-North Korean relations,” the source said. “People are speculating that good news regarding improved relations is on the horizon.”
Meanwhile, according to various images of the North Korean train taken along its route towards Beijing on March 26, it is at least very similar in appearance to the armored train Kim Jong Il used for his 2011 journey. As of Tuesday morning (March 27), the identities of the passengers have yet to be confirmed.