CHANGCHUN, China – North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il reportedly met top Chinese leaders on Friday 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.

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 after 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.”

Choi Jae-sung, an opposition lawmaker in South Korea’s parliamentary intelligence committee, said that Kim Jong Il had breakfast Friday with a member of China’s powerful Politburo Standing Committee in a hotel in northeast China’s Jilin city, where he apparently stayed the night before. Choi said Kim Jong Un accompanied his father, citing unidentified sources.

South Korea’s MBC television reported Kim may later have met President Hu Jintao in Changchun, about an hour from Jilin. It cited an unidentified diplomatic source in Beijing as saying the two held afternoon talks at the city’s South Lake Hotel.

Asked whether Kim was visiting China, a duty officer with the press office of the Chinese Foreign Ministry said late Friday, “China and North Korea consistently maintain high-level contacts. We will release the relevant information in good time.”

China, as North Korea’s biggest diplomatic ally and a major source of aid, would expect to be kept in the loop about major political transitions in Pyongyang, but it’s not likely to be enthusiastic about the prospect of another dynastic succession next door, said Zhu Feng, head of Peking University’s Center for International and Strategic Studies.


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