North Korean leader Kim Jong-il was accompanied by several officials in charge of arms manufacture and acquisition during his latest visit to China, giving rise to speculation that he was hoping for weapons supplies from his country's staunchest ally.
He was accompanied by Ju Kyu-chang, the first vice-director of the Ministry of Defense Industry, and Pak To-chun, a former senior secretary of Jagang Province, where the North's munitions facilities are clustered, and now Workers Party secretary for munitions. Both had been with him on previous China trips.
A source familiar with North Korean affairs said Kim may have been seeking China's help in modernizing the North's superannuated weapons.
During his Beijing visit in May last year, Kim was said to have asked Chinese President Hu Jintao for fighter jets, but his demand was rejected.
Fighter jets are the North's biggest deficiency compared to South Korea.
But due to international sanctions, there is little China can do even if it wants to help. The assistance it could give is in replacing the North's superannuated rifles and artillery, the source said.