North Korean leader Kim Jong-il arrived at a northeastern Chinese city on the second day of his secretive trip to the ally state, TV reports here said Saturday.
Kim's special train arrived in Changchun around 8:20 a.m., and a convoy believed to be carrying an entourage accompanying the leader was seen heading toward the city's South Lake Hotel, according to reports citing unnamed sources there. A large police presence was detected along the street from the station to the luxury hotel which has not been taking ordinary guests, they said.
The reclusive leader of Pyongyang held talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao as lately as August last year at the same hotel.
It remains unclear whether Kim was accompanied by his youngest son and to-be-successor Jong-un as a list of Kim's 70-member entourage did not include his name, officials here had said Friday.
The trip by the North Korean leader, who rarely travels abroad, reflects his growing urgency over Beijing's support in easing economic and diplomatic difficulties amid deepening food shortages, analysts say.
Kim's visit takes place as regional powers are escalating discussions over how to resume the multinational talks on Pyongyang’s denuclearization.
China, host of the six-nation denuclearization talks, has been striving to get the two Koreas to hold nuclear talks as the first step in restarting larger-scale negotiations. The six-nation dialogue, involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia, has been stalled since the end of 2008, fueling regional concerns over Pyongyang’s ongoing nuclear ambitions.
Regional powers have also been watching the succession in Pyongyang and the activities of the heir apparent with interest as it could lead to a sudden collapse of the North’s iron-fisted regime.
While North Koreans, who are kept isolated from outside news, have no choice but to approve of the three-generation dictatorial succession, many secretly question the abilities of the young heir apparent, those who have observed Pyongyang for years say.
Although it would not openly admit it, the South Korean government has been putting more weight on its reunification policies since last year, apparently noting the weaker leadership of the younger Kim in the North.
The junior Kim, who is thought to be no more than 28 years of age, was first unveiled to outsiders in September, when he was made a four-star general and appointed vice chairman of the Workers’ Party Central Military Commission, which oversees the 1.2 million-strong armed forces.
Known to outsiders as “Internet-savvy and well-acquainted with weapons,” Kim Jong-un is largely believed to have been behind the recent cyber attacks against Seoul. Observers also fear he may lead a third atomic test to get international recognition of his country as a nuclear power by 2012.
The reclusive North Korean regime sees it as important to have its last-remaining ally China approve of what would mark its second hereditary power transition. Incumbent Kim began to rule his communist state in 1994, taking over from his father and the founder of North Korea Kim Il-sung.
Having suffered a stroke in 2008 and apparently still struggling with health problems, the incumbent Kim, 69, is making haste in having his youngest son take over the military and the people, a process that may be completed as early as next year, analysts say.
By Shin Hae-in and news reports