Kim Jong Il Said to Reach Shanghai by Plane

Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, January 12, 2006

SEOUL, Jan. 11 -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Il toured Shanghai on Wednesday after reportedly arriving on a direct flight from the North Korean capital in what would mark the reclusive ruler's first overseas trip by plane, according to South Korea's semi-official Yonhap news service.

Quoting unnamed diplomatic sources, Yonhap said Kim was on a three-day trip to China's business hub, which he last visited in 2001 to see the city's vast economic expansion. Kim reportedly fears flying, and news agencies in Japan and South Korea said earlier that he had arrived in China aboard his private train and was perhaps en route to Russia.

But Yonhap said Kim had landed in Shanghai after a direct flight from Pyongyang and was likely to stop in Beijing for meetings with President Hu Jintao and other Chinese leaders before returning to North Korea.

South Korean officials could not immediately confirm Yonhap's report and North Korea's official media did not comment on the visit.

If the report is true, analysts said that Kim's visit could represent an effort to win China's support for lifting U.S. economic sanctions imposed late last year against North Korean companies believed to have ties to illicit activities, including currency counterfeiting. North Korea has said it would not return to six-nation talks aimed at dismantling its nuclear weapons program until those sanctions were lifted.

-- Anthony Faiola

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