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NKorean leader Kim visits Chinese city Harbin

August 29, 2010

CHANGCHUN, China (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Il visited China’s northeastern city of Harbin on Sunday while on a secretive trip reportedly aimed at drumming up support for a succession plan involving his youngest son, a news report said.

Reporters have followed a 35-vehicle motorcade — apparently used by the reclusive Kim — around several cities in northeast China. Kim, 68, rarely leaves North Korea and when he does travels by special train.

In Harbin, Kim toured a historic site commemorating his father’s communist movement, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said. Kim’s father, Kim Il Sung, engaged in anti-Japanese guerrilla warfare in Harbin during Japan’s colonial occupation.

Yonhap said Kim would likely depart from Harbin later Sunday or early Monday.

Yonhap earlier quoted an unidentified diplomat as saying Kim would visit Yanbian, a Korean autonomous prefecture in the far northeastern Chinese province of Jilin bordering North Korea. But it later reported Kim arrived by train in Harbin without stopping.

North Korea does not announce Kim’s trips until after he returns home, and China has refused to say if he is in the country, even though a Japanese television station had a grainy picture of him.

Kim was reportedly accompanied by his son, Kim Jong Un, believed to be in his 20s. Many North Korea watchers predict the son will be appointed to a key party position at a ruling Workers’ Party meeting early next month — the first such gathering in decades — as part of a succession process.

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.

South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper and Yonhap both reported Kim is believed to have met Chinese President Hu Jintao in the city of Changchun on Friday. The Dong-a Ilbo newspaper said the two are thought to have discussed the North’s succession, the resumption of six-nation talks on North Korea’s nuclear program, and ways to strengthen bilateral economic cooperation.

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Associated Press writers Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea, Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo and Scott McDonald in Beijing contributed to this report.

(This version corrects Yonhap saying Kim did not go to Korean autonomous prefecture)

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