Tuesday, June 16, 2009
TOKYO — The youngest son — and reportedly heir apparent — of North Korea's ailing leader Kim Jong Il secretly visited China last week and met with President Hu Jintao, a top Japanese newspaper reported Tuesday.
The Chinese leader urged 26-year-old Kim Jong Un to have North Korea refrain from carrying out further nuclear and missile tests, the Asahi newspaper said, quoting unnamed North Korean sources in Beijing.
The trip took place around June 10, the report said. Kim Jong Un was accompanied by senior officials, including his aide.
The aide used the occasion to inform Chinese officials that Kim Jong Un had been appointed as the leader's successor, the Asahi said. The report said that Kim Jong Un also asked China to continue its energy and food aid to North Korea. China is the communist regime's key ally and biggest aid donor.
South Korea's Foreign Ministry and Unification Ministry said they could not confirm the Asahi report. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a regular news conference in Beijing on Tuesday that he had no knowledge of any such meeting.
Little is known about Kim Jong Un, who was born to Kim Jong Il's late wife, Ko Yong Hi. He studied at the International School of Berne in Switzerland until 1998 under a pseudonym and learned English, German and French, the Swiss weekly news magazine L'Hebdo reported earlier this year, citing classmates and school officials.
Also Tuesday, Japan said it would ban all exports to North Korea in a protest over the communist country's recent nuclear test.
Prime Minister Taro Aso's Cabinet approved the measure as punishment for Pyongyang's nuclear test on May 25 — the North's second atomic test following its first underground nuclear blast in October 2006.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said the export ban "is a message" to North Korea.
Japan's total ban on exports came on the heels of new U.N. sanctions against North Korea. The U.N. Security Council punished the communist country Friday for the May blast by expanding an arms embargo and authorizing ship searches on the high seas in a bid to derail Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs.
Japan already imposed tight trade sanctions against North Korea in 2006 after Pyongyang fired a ballistic missile into the waters between the two countries and conducted its first nuclear test.
Since then, bilateral trade has been reduced to minuscule levels. Japan has imported no goods from North Korea since 2007, while its exports to the North stood at just $8.1 million in 2008, down 26 percent from a year earlier, according to the Finance Ministry.
Japan's ban on exports currently covers only luxury goods such as pricey beef, caviar, alcohol, jewelry and cars. But the Cabinet's decision means the ban will expand to all exports.
Japan's main exported goods to North Korea include bicycles, machinery, plastic products and fishing nets.