On his seventh visit to China, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is accompanied by a large retinue of econocrats and technocrats and his brother-in-law Jang Song-taek, the director of the Workers Party's Administration Department and grey eminence behind the repressive regime.
Footage of Kim and his entourage filmed by Japanese TV cameramen near the Holiday Inn in Mudanjiang, Heilongjiang last Friday and near Changchun Railroad Station in Jilin last Saturday provided the clues.
Jang, who is seen as the protector of Kim's son and heir Jong-un, was seen standing with the entourage in front of Changchun Railroad Station on Saturday. He is said to supervise the regime's efforts to lure foreign investment.
Econocrats Tae Jong-su and Pak To-chun, both secretaries of the Workers Party, were also seen in the footage. Tae was promoted to party secretary and politburo member in September last year for his outstanding performance as senior secretary of the South Hamgyong provincial party committee in getting the February 8 Vinalon Complex and Ryongsong Machine Complex back into shape.
Pak is considered the North's top munitions expert. He was senior secretary of the party committee in Jagang Province, the center of the North's munitions industry, for five years and was appointed by the Supreme People's Assembly last month as a member of the powerful National Defense Commission in charge of the munitions industry.
A South Korean government official said Pak's presence suggest Kim Jong-il is asking China for military aid.
Kim's entourage also includes Choe Tae-bok, the party secretary for science and technology and chairman of the rubber-stamp parliament. Also seen in the footage alongside Choe was deputy premier Kang Sok-ju, the North's top diplomat for nuclear affairs. Kang accompanied Kim on all previous visits to China except his first in 2000.
Party secretary for propaganda Kim Ki-nam was also seen. He is in charge of the personality cult and supervises the state-run press.
On the Chinese side there were Dai Bingguo, the state councilor for foreign affairs; Wang Jiarui, the chief of the International Liaison Department of the Chinese Communist Party who is in charge of exchanges between the CCP and the North's Workers Party; Liu Hongcai, China's ambassador to the North; and Sheng Guangzu, the minister of railways.