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Kim Jong Il visits China, shows persisting frailty

Thai workers stare out of a city bus at the "red shirt" protesters' camp. The protesters have occupied Bangkok since April 3.
Thai workers stare out of a city bus at the "red shirt" protesters' camp. The protesters have occupied Bangkok since April 3. (Paula Bronstein/getty Images)

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Friday, May 7, 2010

NORTH KOREA

Kim visits China, shows persisting frailty

Kim Jong Il's peek-a-boo visit to China this week reportedly included meetings in Beijing with top Chinese officials and some factory walkabouts, although Chinese officials refused to confirm that the North Korean leader was in the country.

What has been confirmed this week -- thanks to the diligence of Japanese and South Korean news media -- is that Kim, 68, has not recovered from a stroke he suffered in 2008.

Video clips showed him dragging his left foot as he walked, with his left arm almost motionless. He also appeared to have lost weight and hair, suggesting to some experts the effects of kidney dialysis.

North Korea watchers say they think Kim traveled to China in search of investment and aid, particularly food. North Korea's moribund economy has been squeezed by tighter U.N. sanctions, and a food shortage this spring has reportedly caused starvation in some areas.

Kim met with Chinese President Hu Jintao on Wednesday night and with Premier Wen Jiabao on Thursday, according to South Korea media. In return for aid, experts predict, Kim may be willing to resume denuclearization talks that the country abandoned last year.

The talks are on indefinite hold, however, because of the unresolved sinking of a South Korean warship March 26 that killed 46 sailors.

-- Blaine Harden

RUSSIA

Hijacked oil tanker retaken; pirate killed

A Russian warship hunted down an oil tanker hijacked by Somali pirates, and special forces rappelled on board Thursday, surprising the outlaws, who surrendered after a 22-minute gun battle. Twenty-three Russian sailors were freed.


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