BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment on Tuesday on whether North Korean leader Kim Jong-il was visiting China, despite credible reports he was visiting his sole major ally for the third time in just over a year.
“The relevant deparments will issue information at the appropriate time,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said at a regular news briefing in Beijing. “Arrangement for leaders’ visits are based on past practices and the wishes of the guest.”
Premier Wen Jiabao told South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in Tokyo on the weekend that Kim was travelling through China to study “economic development”, Yonhap News reported, citing a South Korean presidential aide.
The secretive Kim’s latest train journey to China began on Friday and has so far taken him through the China’s northeast the eastern province of Jiangsu, where his entourage travelled to the provincial capital, Nanjing, on Tuesday.
Kim visited China, his country’s sole major supporter, last year in early May and then in August. In the past neither side has openly confirmed his visits until they are over. Beijing has sought to shore up ties with the North in recent years with more aid and trade and visits there by leaders.
Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Jonathan Hopfner