The South Korean authorities were checking signs that the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, was visiting China by special train on Thursday, an official in the presidential office of South Korea said. South Korean news media, including the national news agency, Yonhap, and the mass-circulation daily, Chosun, reported the information in their Web sites.
“We have signs that Kim Jong-il is visiting China,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the matter. “It’s unclear whether he has arrived or still on the move.”
A government intelligence official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, agreed that there were such signs. He declined to discuss details.
If confirmed, this would mark Mr. Kim’s sixth trip to China, his impoverished country’s largest trade and aid provider, and his second in three months. North Korea and China usually do not confirm a trip by Mr. Kim until after it is over.
Also, his son and designated heir, Kim Jong-un, may, or may not, be with him, Reuters reports:
South Korean media reported on Thursday that Kim Jong-un was accompanying his father on a visit to China ahead of a rare meeting next month of the North Korea’s Workers’ Party, which rubber stamps major policy decisions.
The meeting, the first of its kind in more than 40 years, is expected to elect a new leadership, likely giving the junior Kim an official party role and formally initiate the grooming for succession.
See also a report from the Wall Street Journal.