Kim Jong ll.
(photo credit: AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
North Korea's reclusive leader Kim Jong Il was in China Thursday on his second visit this year to his country's biggest source of diplomatic and financial support, according to teachers at a school he visited.
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The visit, which has not been announced by either country, is highly unusual, coming just three months after the last visit of Kim, who rarely travels and when he does goes by train. It came particularly as a surprise because former US President Jimmy Carter is in North Korea and many had speculated he would meet the leader.
But his stop in Jilin city in Jilin province in northeastern China was confirmed by two teachers at the Yuwen Middle School.
"He definitely came over. But I'm not sure if his son was with him or
what time he came," said a physical education teacher who would give
only his surname Zhao.
Another teacher said Kim visited the school in the morning for about 20 minutes. He refused to give his name.
Kim may be traveling with a son to consult with Chinese officials on
plans to transfer power to a successor, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency
and YTN television in Seoul said.
It's widely believed that Kim is preparing to transfer power to his
third and youngest son, Kim Jong Un, and many North Korea watchers
believe the son will be granted a key party position next month.
Kim's father, late President Kim Il Sung, attended the school from 1927
to 1930 after his family fled the Japanese occupation of Korea. At the
time, Yuwen was a hot-bed of leftist thinking. Biographies of Kim say
that he began absorbing communist ideology while at Yuwen. In 1928, Kim
organized protests against "reactionary teachers" at Yuwen in addition
to demonstrations against Japan and the purchase of Japanese goods,
according to the Jilin government's website.
According to Yonhap, citing an unidentified high-ranking Seoul official,
Kim's special armored train crossed the border into China early
Thursday. YTN carried a similar report but said Kim arrived in China
late Wednesday night.
The surprise trip comes as former Carter makes a rare visit to North
Korea on a private mission to secure the freedom of an imprisoned
American. There was no word on whether Carter — who met in 1994 with Kim
Il Sung — had been scheduled to meet the current leader.
There was no comment from China's Foreign Ministry or from the Communist
Party's international liaison department, which deals with relations
with North Korea.