Senior Chinese officials on four occasions invited North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's son and heir Jong-un to China during recent visits to Pyongyang, the National Intelligence Service says. The NIS officials were quoted by members of the National Assembly's Intelligence Committee as briefing them on Monday.
NIS Director Won Sei-hoon said the invitations "weren't written but verbal, but they appear to be considered official invitations."
According to other NIS officials, Kim junior is focusing on expanding his influence in policy-making, accompanying his father on outdoor activities more often, and generally boosting his status.
The NIS officials also briefed lawmakers on the food situation in the North. They said the regime is tightening controls by cutting rations even for traditionally privileged Pyongyang residents and low-ranking regional officials. Since January, the regime has been urging all households, agencies and enterprises to help the military with food donations.
They added their aim is to prepare for political events, ensure a smooth hereditary transition of power and stockpile food for the military before 2012, which the regime has touted as the year the North will turn into a "powerful and prosperous nation."
Meanwhile, NIS officials denied reports that Kim Jong-chol, Kim Jong-il's second son, was accompanied by members of Ponghwajo, a kind of brat pack of the children of North Korea's power elite, when he went on a shopping spree in Singapore in mid-February.