With an unannounced visit to Beijing, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has finally taken his place on the global stage.
The youngest son of Kim Jong Il and his third wife, a Korean dancer born in Japan, Kim is the grandson of the revered Kim Il Sung, who in 1948 founded the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the North’s official name.
There are scant details about Kim’s life before he took the helm of his isolated country; Pyongyang has never confirmed either his birthday or the year of his birth, but the US Treasury Department has given it as January 8, 1984 in a sanctions document. There is also speculation about 1982 and 1983.
Here are some significant moments in his leadership:
Kim, educated in Switzerland, is made a four-star general and given senior ruling party posts. For the first time, state media publish a photograph of him as an adult.
Still in his late 20s, he is named “great successor” after the death of his father. His appointment is at the expense of his two older brothers.
As Supreme Commander of the army and head of the ruling Workers’ Party, Kim orders the launching of a long-range rocket. The following year he oversees a third nuclear test, raising tensions on the peninsula and prompting a new round of UN sanctions.
As part of a purge, Kim’s uncle by marriage Jang Song Thaek, who was once his political mentor and the North’s unofficial number two, is put to death on an array of charges including treason and corruption.
Kim’s estranged half-brother Kim Jong Nam is assassinated by two women using the banned nerve agent VX at Kuala Lumpur international airport. Seoul accuses Pyongyang of having masterminded the attack.
North Korea conducts two intercontinental ballistic missile tests and Kim declares all US territory within range.
Amid spiralling international tensions over its missile programme, North Korea conducts its sixth nuclear test — its fourth under Kim and by far its largest to date.
In a blaze of publicity Kim sends his sister Kim Yo Jong to the Winter Olympics in the South, where she shares a historic handshake with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the opening ceremony. She passes on Kim’s invitation for Moon to attend a summit in Pyongyang.
March 8, 2018
Kim’s invitation to US President Donald Trump to hold a summit is revealed.
March 26, 2018
A North Korean train arrives in Beijing, bringing Kim on his first foreign trip as leader.