Monday, May 3, 2010
People of the world - join hands for the Jong Train!
By Malcolm Moore in Shanghai
Published: 7:00AM BST 03 May 2010
"We have confirmed the arrival of a special train at Dandong, and we believe it is highly likely that Chairman Kim was on board," an unnamed government official in Seoul told Yonhap, the South Korean news agency.
A 17-carriage train arrived in the northern Chinese city of Dandong, the nearest point across the Tumen river from North Korea, just after five o'clock in the morning.
Yonhap said that diplomatic sources in Beijing had confirmed that the North Korean leader was on board the train. "It is extremely rare to see a 17-carriage North Korean train arrive in China," the unnamed source said, adding that most trains that come across the border are four or five carriages long, and usually arrive in the afternoon.
Around 200 Chinese police officers tightly surrounded the train station and blocked off the road to traffic ahead of its arrival.
Wenweipo, a government-controlled Hong Kong newspaper, also said that the Public Security Bureau in Dandong had put the Zhonglian hotel on full alert and ordered all guests to vacate over the weekend.
A visit by Kim Jong-il to China was widely expected in April, but failed to materialise.
However, Kim Yong-nam, the chairman of North Korea's Supreme People's Assembly and therefore de facto head of state, attending the opening of the Shanghai World Expo last Friday and spoke with Hu Jintao, the Chinese president.
Kim Jong-il has visited China four times since 2000, each time by train. He is rumoured to be afraid of flying. His destination for the current trip is said to be the northern port city of Dalian.
North Korea is in the process of developing its own major sea-port, Rajin, which it has leased to China for ten years, giving China important access to the Sea of Japan.
Kim's visit may also herald a return by Pyongyang to the six-party talks on denuclearisation. However, tensions between North and South Korea have risen considerably following the sinking of a South Korean warship at the end of March, with some officials in Seoul now pointing the finger of blame at North Korea for the incident.
Posted by Steve Douglass at 8:11 PM