Kim Jong-il in Surprise Trip Down Memory Lane in China

      August 27, 2010 09:18

      This photo taken in April 2005 shows the railway bridge connecting Manpo in North Korea and China's Jian. North Korean leader Kim Jong-il reportedly used the bridge when he went to China on Thursday.

      North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has abruptly embarked on his sixth visit to China since he took power, this time probably with his third son and heir apparent Jong-un. He crossed the border at Manpo railway bridge over the Apnok (or Yalu) River bound for Jian in China's Jilin Province. This is Kim's second visit to China this year.

      He seems to have spent the night in the North Korean border city of Kanggye, Jagang Province before his special armored train passed through Jian around 1 a.m. on Thursday. A local source said areas near the railway in downtown Jian was heavily guarded by armed police since Wednesday afternoon and some hotels that overlook the railway were closed down.

      Kim apparently chose the route, instead of the crossing at Dandong in the mouth of the Apnok River, to ensure maximum secrecy, observers speculate. The train did not stop at Jian station but ran straight north and arrived in the city of Jilin 400 km away around 9 a.m. Thursday. Security in Jilin was tight since early morning Thursday, with large numbers of armed police and traffic police deployed.

      Reports say Kim spent about 10 minutes in Jilin, where he was welcomed by Chinese officials. Observers speculate that Wang Jiarui, the director of the Chinese Communist Party's International Liaison Department, led the officials. Wang has visited the North several times and the two are said to get on well.

      Kim then took a limousine to visit Yuwen Middle School, by the side of the Songhua River to the south of the city, which his father Kim Il-sung attended from 1927 to 1930. North Korean and Chinese leaders visit the school whenever they stop over in the city. He stayed for about an hour.

      In the afternoon, scores of black luxury sedans were seen passing near Beishan Park to the north of Jilin, and traffic was tightly controlled. Beishan Park is home to several Qing Dynasty temples, and Kim is believed to have visited a historic site in the park related to his father's activities there.

      North Korea experts believe the journey was a kind of nostalgic tour for his son and heir apparent Jong-un to consolidate his son's legitimacy with a symbolic gesture. The rest of the itinerary is not known, with conflicting reports saying Kim will either return home or move on.

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