The Chinese government this week maintained its silence on the reported visit of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to China, amid media reports that the ailing leader had arrived in northeastern China, along with his son and designated successor.
On Friday, South Korean media and some local channels showed footage of a convoy of cars driving through the city of Jilin, not far from China’s border with North Korea. South Korean media reported on Friday that Mr. Kim had arrived in Jilin in his armoured train.
This will be Mr. Kim’s second visit to China in only three months — an unusual occurrence for a leader who rarely travels out of his own country. Some analysts viewed the visit as a platform for Mr. Kim to secure Chinese support for his succession plans, with his son Kim Jong-un reported to have travelled along with him to China.
His visit also comes amid increasing pressure on North Korea, both from within — following recent floods and economic problems – and from its neighbours. The sinking of a South Korean warship in March, which left 46 sailors dead, has renewed strains in the Korean Peninsula in recent months, with South Korea and several nations blaming a North Korean torpedo for the attack.
Even as Mr. Kim was reported to have been travelling in northeastern China on Friday, former United States President Jimmy Carter left the North Korean capital Pyongyang after securing the release of Aijalon Mahli Gomes, an American who had been imprisoned since January after reportedly entering North Korea illegally. It remained unclear whether Mr. Carter had met with the North Korean leader, or if Mr. Kim had left for China before his scheduled meeting with the former U.S. President.