North Korean leader Kim Jong-un paid a visit to China this week, his first trip out of his isolated nation since taking power in 2011. The visit, described as “unofficial” by the Chinese, still produced remarkable images that shed some light into the dynamics at play between the two countries. They were released by North Korean state media only after the North Korean delegation’s distinctive green train departed Beijing for the return trip home.
The New York Times noted that the genial and relaxed nature of the visit belied the tense status of Chinese-North Korean relations over the past few years:
The tone was a significant shift. Over the past six years, relations between the two leaders have been widely reported as chilly. Mr. Kim rebuffed overtures from China, and purged officials who had previously served as the main channels to Beijing, including his uncle, who was executed.
More images from the past two days including those of Kim studiously taking notes while Chinese president Xi Jinping spoke, show, if anything, an astoundingly normal looking visit—as if to tell the world that the isolated and erratic dictator can actually be brought down to Earth.