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N. Korea leader’s trip spurs succession talk

Kim Jong Il
Kim Jong Il

Youngest son reportedly joins father for meetings in China

CHANGCHUN, China – North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il reportedly met top Chinese leaders in an apparent bid for Beijing’s diplomatic and financial support for a succession plan involving his third and youngest son, who is said to be traveling with him.

Kim appeared set to return home today from the secretive trip. Many North Korea watchers predict the son – Kim Jong Un, believed to be in his 20s – will be appointed to a key party position at a ruling Workers’ Party meeting early next month – the first such gathering in decades.

To pull off the event with sufficient fanfare, North Korea will need Chinese aid, particularly following the devastating floods that battered the country’s northwest this month, analysts said.

“The convention needs to be festive with the party giving out food or normalizing day-to-day life for its people but with the recent flood damages, they are not able to,” said Cheong Seong-chang, a senior fellow at the Sejong Institute think tank outside Seoul.

“The most important thing on Kim’s agenda is scoring Chinese aid, which will ensure that the meeting will be well received by the people.”

The mass-circulation Chosun Ilbo newspaper said today that Kim and Chinese President Hu Jintao are believed to have met in Changchun on Friday.

The Dong-a Ilbo newspaper carried a similar report, saying the two are believed to have discussed the North’s succession, the resumption of the six-party nuclear talks and ways to strengthen bilateral economic cooperation.

Choi Jae-sung, an opposition lawmaker in South Korea’s parliamentary intelligence committee, told the Associated Press that Kim Jong Un was on the trip with his father, citing unidentified sources.

Kim has three sons but is said to favor the youngest, despite his youth and inexperience. However, little is known about Kim Jong Un. The only known photo of him was taken when he was a child. If he assumes power, it will continue a dynastic tradition that began when Kim Jong Il took over after the death of his father, the late President Kim Il Sung.


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