North Korean Heir Apparent Kim Jong Eun Reportedly in China (UPDATED)

South Korean media has reported that North Korea’s heir apparent Kim Jong Eun is traveling in China on his first trip overseas since being chosen to take over power from his father, Kim Jong Il. From the Washington Post:

Kim Jong Il’s youngest son, appointed last year to several top party and military positions, reportedly arrived Friday morning in Jilin, the northeastern Chinese province across from the North Korean border. One Seoul-based news organization run by North Korean defectors reported that Kim Jong Eun was traveling by train with his uncle, Jang Song Taek, a trusted regent aiding with the succession.

North Korea has long depended on its bond with China — its lone major ally — for food and financial support. Beijing has long shrouded visits from North Korean leaders in secrecy, with the foreign ministry confirming nothing until the trips are over. But if the junior Kim meets with top Chinese officials, as analysts watching North Korea expect, the trip will reaffirm China’s support for the hereditary succession plan.

The trip, too, could offer a slight boost for the legitimacy of the untested 20-something, whose emergence comes at a time when food shortages and increased public dissatisfaction threaten North Korea’s family-run Stalinist regime.

Officials in South Korea did not immediately confirm that Kim Jong Eun was taking the trip.

UPDATE:

Some sources are reporting that it may actually be King Jong-Il who made the surprise visit to China, not his son as had been reported. From The Independent:

North Korea’s ruler Kim Jong-il made a surprise visit to China yesterday, South Korean media reported, amid confusing reports about the purpose of the trip and the presence of his son.

Media in Seoul quoted South Korean presidential and government sources as saying the 69-year-old leader travelled by train yesterday morning. Earlier, the media outlets reported that it was youngest son and heir apparent Kim Jong-un who arrived in Tumen, in the north-eastern Chinese province of Jilin. A presidential source would not confirm the later reports.

If the elder Mr Kim’s visit is confirmed, it would be the North Korean leader’s third trip to China in the past 12 months. In the past, such visits have been shrouded in mystery, and it has taken days for China or North Korea to admit avisit was underway.

May 19, 2011 10:13 PM
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