Kim Apparently in China's South

Saturday, January 14, 2006

GUANGZHOU, China, Jan. 13 -- Tight security around a five-star hotel in southern China on Friday fed speculation North Korean leader Kim Jong Il was visiting as diplomatic efforts to restart talks on the North's nuclear program gathered pace.

Hundreds of uniformed and plainclothes police swarmed in and around the opulent White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, putting up roadblocks leading to the hotel. Passersby and bystanders were turned away.

In the early evening, two of the city's most luxurious sightseeing ferries -- "The Pearl of the Flower City" and "The Information Times," named after a local paper -- cruised slowly down the Pearl River, with Kim rumored to be aboard. Police cars lined roads on both sides of the river.

Various media reports -- citing witnesses, diplomatic sources and those familiar with his movements -- have put Kim in Beijing or Shanghai this week. One source said he was in Russia; others said he was at home.

South Korea's biggest business daily, Maeil Business Newspaper, said Friday that Kim had met Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing on Thursday for talks on U.S. sanctions against North Korea and six-party talks about the nation's nuclear ambitions.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company