President Hu Jintao visited North Korea’s embassy in Beijing on Tuesday to offer his condolences on the death of Kim Jong-il as China moved swiftly to assure its communist ally of its strong support amid an uncertain leadership transition.
Surrounded by scores of security officers, Mr. Hu made an early morning trip to the sprawling complex in eastern Beijing’s leafy Jianguomenwai diplomatic district, where the North Korean flag was flying at half-staff. The official Xinhua News Agency reported the visit but offered no other details.
That followed a meeting on Monday evening between Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and the embassy’s second highest-ranking official, charge d’affaires Pak Myong Ho, Xinhua said.
Mr. Yang told Mr. Pak that “comrade Kim Jong-il was a great party and state leader,” Xinhua said.
“The Chinese government and people were deeply saddened by the demise of ‘close friend’ Kim Jong Il, who would be remembered forever by the Chinese people,” Mr. Yang said.
The comments echoed remarks on Monday from the Foreign Ministry and ruling Communist Party’s Central Committee, China’s top policy-setting body, hailing Kim’s son and successor Kim Jong-un as North Korea’s new leader and declaring that long-standing ties would flourish between the countries.
Hours earlier, the Foreign Ministry issued condolences on behalf of the government, praising the elder Kim as “a great leader of the North Korean people and a dear friend to the people of China.”