Kim heads home after hush-hush China trip

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Kim heads home after hush-hush China trip

Apparently heading home after a summit with Chinese President Hu Jintao, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il stopped by a northeastern Chinese city briefly yesterday to pay tribute to his late father, remembered there as an anti-imperialism hero, sources said.

The visit to a monument honoring North Korea’s founder Kim Il Sung in the city of Mudanjiang was the latest move by the ailing North Korean leader to highlight the heritage his family bears as decades-long rulers of the impoverished communist state.

Kim arrived in the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin at midnight Sunday and stayed near the Songhua River before paying a visit to a historic site symbolic of the anti-Japanese movement led by his father, sources said.

Kim stopped over in Harbin on his way home from a surprise trip to China, believed to be linked to Pyongyang’s father-to-son power transition process, the sources said.

A Japanese television camera captured a blurred image of Kim walking out of a hotel in Jilin Province, guarded by security agents.

It was unconfirmed whether he was accompanied by his youngest son and heir apparent, Jong-un, who is believed to be 27 or 28 years old.

The China trip, shrouded in secrecy, is Kim’s second in about three months, an unusual move by the reclusive leader who rarely travels abroad. Kim’s last visit to Pyongyang’s closest ally in May included talks with the Chinese president.

An official at Changchun’s South Lake Hotel, where Kim was widely believed to have held talks with President Hu this week, said the two heads visited the hotel at the same time.

On the first day of the trip Thursday, Kim made a pilgrimage to an old Chinese school and a park in Jilin, which Pyongyang regards as a holy place for Kim Il Sung’s anti-Japanese movement.

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