Kim Jong-il Stops Off in Chinese Boomtown

      May 04, 2010 08:04

      North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is seen outside the Furama Hotel in Dalian, China on Monday. /Kyodo News-Yonhap

      North Korean leader Kim Jong-il arrived in the northeastern port city of Dalian on Monday morning as part of a China trip that began in the small hours of the morning. Kim and entourage were seen arriving at Furama Hotel in downtown Dalian in about 20 guest vehicles.

      China reportedly provided Kim with Mercedes-Benz's premium brand Maybach for the 300-km trip to Dalian from Dandong. The Furama Hotel where Kim stayed is one of the most luxurious in Dalian and North Korea reserved an entire new wing until 7 p.m for security reasons. Kim reportedly stayed its presidential suite.

      Sources said Kim rested in the morning and went outside three times to look around the port area of Dalian around 2:30 p.m, take part in welcoming ceremony by local Chinese officials at 5:30 p.m. and enjoy the scenery at night.

      Traffic around the downtown area was tightly controlled for about an hour and the central Renmin Road and Zhongshan Square were completely blocked at one time in the afternoon.

      The 750 sq.m presidential suite of the Furama Hotel, where North Korean leader Kim Jong-il stayed during his visit to Dalian, China on Monday

      Diplomats in Beijing said that Kim visited Dalian to look after North Korea-China economic cooperation and Chinese investment in the North, including the North's ongoing Rajin Port construction project. The city is said to be a benchmark for the port.

      On Sunday, around 4:30 a.m., about 200 police guards stood at Dandong Railway Station and in near the Apnok (or Yalu) River at intervals of 2 to 3 m, signaling the imminent arrival of Kim's train, which steamed across the bridge around 5:15 a.m. The 17-car train was not preceded by an advance train as in the past, according to a local source.

      International press interest has been keen. AFP speculated that China "could press Kim to return to the six-party nuclear disarmament talks that it chairs, in return for badly needed aid." AP pointed out that Kim's visit comes "amid tensions over the recent sinking of a South Korean warship and stalled nuclear disarmament negotiations."

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