December 17, 2009 10:03
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il may be gearing up to visit China after a series of key aides went there and the North banned foreigners from entering for two months.
The North has closed the border with China before when Kim was headed for Beijing to guarantee the paranoid leader's safety aboard his private armored train.
Experts say Kim may have good reasons to visit China. Prof. Kim Hung-kyu of the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security on Wednesday said Kim may want to visit to avoid "international isolation." Some speculate that Kim is planning to introduce his son and heir apparent Jong-un to the Chinese leadership.
But a researcher at a government-funded think tank said Kim "has no reason to go to China at a time where it's difficult for China to give him any handout due to the nuclear issue." A government official speculated Kim would not go to China in January or February "because it's dangerous for a person who's had a stroke to move around in cold weather."
Close aides of the ailing leader have recently been to China as part of exchange of visits between major organizations in the two countries on the 60th anniversary of bilateral relations this year, a North Korea source said.
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