Chinese President Hu Jintao on Saturday pledged to strengthen ties with the new leadership in North Korea, during a visit to Beijing by a senior delegation from Pyongyang, state media reported.
Hu’s comments come after ailing North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il this week offered senior posts in the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) to his son Jong-Un and promoted him to the rank of general — signs that he is the heir apparent.
China is North Korea’s sole major ally and provides an economic lifeline to impoverished Pyongyang.
“We believe that the WPK, the DPRK government and people will see new achievements in their national construction under the new WPK leadership,” Hu said, according to China’s official Xinhua news agency.
Update: A South Korean news agency has also confirmed rumors that Kim Jong-un surreptitiously accompanied his father on two trips to China earlier this year. From AFP:
The leader’s youngest son behaved like a bodyguard to his ailing father during the trips in May and August and travelled under an assumed name, Yonhap news agency quoted sources on the North as saying.
Kim Jong-Un, believed aged about 27, apparently cemented his position as heir when he was appointed four-star general and given key party posts during last week’s rare communist party meeting.
His official photo was published in state media for the first time.
Analysts had speculated that Kim Jong-Il’s visit in August was aimed at garnering support for the hereditary power succession from China, the impoverished North’s sole major ally and economic lifeline.
“Jong-Un, dressed in a suit, acted as if he was a bodyguard and accompanied Kim Jong-Il closely,” Yonhap quoted a source as saying, adding the trip would be used to showcase his loyalty to his father.