Meeting Xi Jinping was more than a rehearsal for the Korean leader’s date with Donald Trump. It was a necessary staging post
Kim Jong-un’s clandestine trip to China was in many ways an atmospheric throwback to times long gone, when it was possible to keep the movements of even a national leader hidden from public view and the stately progress of a train was preferred to air travel. (Perhaps only North Korea’s Kim dynasty – which has a congenital fear of flying, even though Kim Jong-un’s father actually died on his train – and our own Queen remain such devotees to rail.)
Whatever his mode of transport, however, and whatever efforts were made to keep it temporarily under wraps, Kim’s visit to Beijing marks the next stage in the about-face that began with North Korea’s surprise decision to compete in a joint team with South Korea in the recent Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and should culminate in the promised summit meeting with Donald Trump. In some ways it was a necessary staging post.