Confusion surrounds North Korean visit to China

Reclusive North Korea is preparing for a third generation of Kim family rule.

Updated: May 20, 2011, 16:01 PM IST

Seoul: Confusion surrounded a North Korean visit to China on Friday, as media in the South said the North`s leader Kim Jong-il had crossed the border, contradicting earlier reports that his son and heir apparent Kim Jong-un had travelled.

South Korea`s YTN and MBC television quoted South Korean presidential and government sources as saying the 69-year-old leader had entered China by train on Friday morning.

Earlier, the same broadcasters reported it was Kim Jong-un, believed to be in his late 20s, who arrived by train in Tumen, in the northeastern Chinese province of Jilin. A presidential source would not confirm the later reports.

It would be the North Korean leader`s third visit to China inside the past 12 months.

Reclusive North Korea is preparing for a third generation of Kim family rule, with the inexperienced Kim poised to take over from his father as the autocratic state`s next leader.

Analysts say the succession process, hastened last September due to Kim Jong-il`s poor health, has probably slowed down in recent months due to the 69-year-old leader`s apparent improving condition.

South Korea`s spy agency had been expecting a visit for months. Media reports said the trip would likely focus on developing economic ties between the neighbours and could involve visits to joint projects on their border.

The Chosun Ilbo website reported earlier on Friday that either Kim or his son could attend a groundbreaking ceremony for two development projects on the North Korea-China border at the end of the month.

A construction project developing an island called Hwanggumpyong in the lower reaches of the Tumen River starts on May 28, and construction of roads connecting Hunchun in China and Rajin-Sonbong in North Korea on May 30, the paper said.

Chinese and South Korean government officials could not immediately confirm the visit.

Bureau Report