The Latest: Japan says talks must end N. Korean nuke program

In this photo provided Wednesday, March 28, 2018, by China's Xinhua News Agency, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands in Beijing, China. The Chinese government confirmed Wednesday that North Korea's reclusive leader Kim went to Beijing and met with Chinese President Xi in his first known trip to a foreign country since he took power in 2011. The official Xinhua News Agency said Kim made an unofficial visit to China from Sunday to Wednesday.(Ju Peng/Xinhua via AP)

Japan's prime minister has reiterated that any talks with North Korea must end its nuclear weapons program, following an unexpected meeting this week between the leaders of North Korea and China

BEIJING — The Latest on a visit by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to China (all times local):

11:30 a.m.

Japan's prime minister has reiterated that any talks with North Korea must end its nuclear weapons program, following an unexpected meeting this week between the leaders of North Korea and China.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a parliamentary committee Wednesday that Japan has great interest in what happened and hopes to receive an explanation from China.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met Chinese President Xi Jinping on a visit to Beijing that caught most of the world by surprise.

Abe said that "what's important is not dialogue for dialogue's sake, but to achieve nuclear and missile dismantling in a completely verifiable and irreversible way."

He added that sanctions on North Korea must be maintained until it takes concrete actions toward that end.

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9:10 a.m.

The White House says the Chinese government contacted them Tuesday to tell U.S. officials about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's visit to China.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders says the briefing included a "personal message from President Xi to President Trump," which was conveyed to the president. She did not say what that message entails.

She's stressing the U.S. has been in close contact with South Korea and Japan and sees the development "as further evidence that our campaign of maximum pressure is creating the appropriate atmosphere for dialogue with North Korea."

Trump earlier this month agreed to direct talks with Kim. Officials have yet to set a date.

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8:40 a.m.

China's official news agency is citing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as saying that Pyongyang is "determined" to improve ties with South Korea and "willing" to hold a summit with the U.S.

Xinhua News Agency said Kim told Chinese President Xi Jinping that North Korea is working to ease tensions and propose peace talks. The report Wednesday followed Kim's brief visit to Beijing this week.

Without directly quoting him, Xinhua cited Kim as saying that North Korea is "determined" to improve ties with Seoul and hold a summit between the heads of the two sides.

Xinhua described Kim as saying that North Korea is willing to hold a summit with the United States.

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8:40 a.m.

South Korea and Chinese media have confirmed that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has visited China.

It was Kim's first known visit to a foreign country since he took power after his father's death in late 2011.

China's official Xinhua News Agency said Wednesday that Kim made an unofficial visit to China and met with President Xi Jinping at the Chinese leader's request.

The short trip saw a North Korean train enter China on Monday but was otherwise cloaked in secrecy.

The train looked like one used by Kim's father, former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

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4:50 p.m.

The speculation over just who traveled by special train from North Korea to Beijing drew a swift reaction from Chinese censors.

Searches for the term "North Korea" were blocked Tuesday while "Kim Jong Un" turned up results from several days ago on major social media platforms, including Sina's Weibo.

China's routine censorship of sensitive subjects online can even target words and phrases with tenuous, and even unlikely, connections.

One of those blocked Tuesday was a nickname Chinese have bestowed on the North Korean leader, Kim the Third Fatty ("Jin San Pang" in Chinese). A blocked Weibo post about Kim's possible visit even shows a combination of three photos of a pig character in a fictional Chinese television series.

The arrival of a train in Beijing on Monday that looks like one used by Kim's father, former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, has triggered speculation that Kim was in Beijing.

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4:15 p.m.

The Chinese foreign ministry says it has no information on speculation that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has visited Beijing.

A ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, told reporters at a regular briefing Tuesday that she knew they were "all very curious" but that she had "no information" on whether Kim or any other North Korean official was visiting Beijing.

The arrival of a train in Beijing on Monday that looks like one used by Kim's father, former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, has triggered speculation that Kim was in Beijing.

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3:40 p.m.

A Japanese news agency says a train believed to be used by high-level North Korean officials has left the Beijing station.

Kyodo News reported Tuesday afternoon the train had departed. The agency did not say how it knew that.

The train's arrival Monday had sparked speculation that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was visiting China.

A foreign guesthouse in Beijing had heavy security overnight and escorted vehicle convoys were seen near the guesthouse. A limousine was then seen entering the train station Tuesday afternoon.

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3 p.m.

A vehicle convoy has been seen entering the Beijing train station under heavy security amid speculation of a high-level North Korean visit.

The convoy of about a dozen cars led by a motorcycle escort traveled Tuesday afternoon in the direction of the Beijing Railway Station. A black limousine about 10 minutes later entered the train station under a heavy security presence. The station itself was closed to the public in an unusual security measure.

The activity followed the arrival Monday of a train resembling one used by North Korea's previous leader, and a foreign guesthouse in Beijing had a heavy security presence overnight. Some media have speculated that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was making a surprise visit to China.

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1:05 p.m.

A convoy of official Chinese cars has been seen leaving the Beijing guesthouse amid speculation that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is making his first visit to China as the North's leader.

City police and the paramilitary People's Armed Police stood guard Tuesday in the area and unidentified men in plainclothes attempted to prevent photographers from taking pictures.

Cars in the convoy were identified by yellow stickers but carried no diplomatic license plates. The guesthouse had been the favored residence of Kim Jong Un's father, North Korea's former leader Kim Jong Il, during his visits to Beijing.

The younger Kim had long been expected to make a visit to the capital of his country's most important ally and chief economic partner.

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9:15 a.m.

South Korea says it's closely monitoring the arrival of a train in Beijing that looks like one used by North Korea's previous leader. Seoul doesn't know who's on the train, but some media speculate that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has made a surprise visit to China.

South Korea's presidential office said Tuesday that it cannot immediately confirm reports that the train carried Kim on what would be his first overseas trip since taking power in 2011. The office says it also cannot confirm a report that the train carried Kim's sister.

Some see a recent diplomatic push by Kim Jong Un as an attempt to improve the country's economy. He has planned meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and President Donald Trump.

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10 p.m.

Japanese media reports say a special North Korean train has arrived in Beijing under unusually heavy security, suggesting a senior delegation might have been aboard.

A spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Monday she was not aware of the situation and had no further comment. North Korea's state-run media had no reports of a delegation traveling to China.

Japanese television network NTV and public broadcaster NHK reported the arrival of the train and said the heavy security in the city suggested a senior official was aboard.

The reports sparked speculation that leader Kim Jong Un might have been on the train. Kim is expected to have a summit meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in late April and with U.S. President Donald Trump by May.

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