Beijing: Beijing refused to confirm to a visiting high-level Japanese delegation whether North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il had paid a secretive but widely reported visit to China, Japan diplomats said on Saturday.
Kim, who rarely leaves his impoverished nation, has reportedly been in China since the middle of the week, triggering speculation over the reason for a second visit to the North`s most important ally and economic lifeline this year.
But when a Japanese delegation led by Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada that is in Beijing for economic talks asked about the reports on Saturday, China kept mum.
"(Chinese) Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi made no response to that question," Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Satoru Satoh told reporters.
Yang merely stated China`s willingness to continue working with Japan on North Korean nuclear disarmament.
Japan is a party to stalled six-nation talks on the issue that also involve the two Koreas, the United States, Russia, and hosts China.
Visits by Kim to his country`s giant neighbour are wrapped in secrecy by the two sides.
Kim, who reportedly dislikes flying, travels aboard his luxurious armoured personal train. The two governments do not officially announce the visits until after he has returned home.
Some North Korea-watchers believe Kim is visiting China accompanied by his youngest son and probable successor Kim Jong-Un to receive Beijing`s blessing for a future dynastic transfer of power to the younger Kim.