May 03, 2010 10:12
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has apparently embarked on a long-expected China visit. Chinese sources on Monday said the reclusive dictator arrived in the border city of Dandong aboard one of his armored trains at 5.15 a.m. and left for Beijing about a half hour later.
South Korean government officials expected the visit. "I can't go into further details, because it's an intelligence matter," one said Sunday, "but we've detected signs of his imminent visit based on watching developments in Dandong and Beijing."
Chinese security has been on highest alert, drastically reinforcing guards at Dandong Railway Station and other major points and forcing guests in hotels overlooking the Apnok (Yalu) River to leave, according to local sources. The river marks the border between the two countries.
The governor of Liaoning Province and a handful of other senior Chinese officials were rumored to have appeared at Dandong Railway Station on Sunday afternoon, apparently in preparation for welcoming Kim.
Kim is expected to meet Chinese President Hu Jintao to discuss economic assistance and the North's return to the six-party nuclear talks. It remains to be seen whether they will discuss the sinking of the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan and whether Kim Jong-un, Kim's son and heir apparent, accompanies him.
There had been rampant speculation early last month that Kim would visit China soon. Experts said on April 22 that a delegation of the North Korean Workers' Party, which was visiting Beijing at that time, in there to prepare for Kim's visit.
Another government official said, "We've watched him since early April. His visit is more highly likely now than ever before. We assume that Kim decided to visit China before the ongoing investigation of the Cheonan sinking is released."
The official implied that Kim felt it is urgent to visit China, his regime's staunchest ally, before it is determined whether North Korea was behind the sinking and international pressure mounts.
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