N.Korean leader on rare visit to China

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il reportedly went to China seeking aid and protection from his only major ally.

N.Korean leader on rare visit to China

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il reportedly went to China seeking aid and protection from his only major ally.

China has propped up the North's leaders for decades.

He crossed into China in the predawn hours in his armoured train and went to the thriving port city of Dalian, Yonhap news agency quoted South Korean officials as saying.

Kim, who is said to dislike air travel, has visited China four times since 2000 by train. In his last trip in 2006, Kim toured China's industrial centres for a first-hand look under the hood of the country's quickly growing economy.

Dalian, a rebuilt rust-belt city that has attracted major foreign investment, is a symbol of development that Beijing's leaders have advocated for years to Kim and his father, state founder Kim Il-sung, to revive the North's moribund economy.

A booking agent at the Furama Hotel in Dalian where Kim was thought to be staying told Reuters it was not accepting reservations for Monday because of "an event".

A highway into Dalian has been blocked to normal traffic and there was a heavy police guard near a factory zone.

There has been no confirmation of the trip, and reporters, camping out along the line in Dandong that Kim's special train would have to use to enter China, were hounded out of the area by Chinese security agents just before the suspected crossing.

The visit would be Kim's first trip abroad since a suspected stroke in 2008. Analysts are also wondering whether Kim's youngest son Jong-un may be joining him so that he could introduce him as the heir to the family throne in Beijing.

North Korea has suffered from persistent food shortages since the Soviet Union collapsed two decades ago. Ongoing shortages were further aggravated last November by a bungled currency reform.

Kim's visit comes after Chinese President Hu Jintao on Friday met South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak and with North Korea's number two leader Kim Yong-Nam on the sidelines of the World Expo in Shanghai.

In 2009, bilateral trade between China and North Korea, with an estimated GDP of $17 billion, was worth $2.7 billion. As the North's economy has grown weaker since Kim took over power in 1994, China has supplied more food, oil and goods that serve as a lifeline for his state.

The North's official media has not mentioned the trip and did not announce his 2006 visit until after Kim's armoured train crossed the border and he was safely back in North Korea.

Agencies

Last Mod: 03 Mayıs 2010, 16:35
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