North Korean Leader Kim Jong Il Travels to Northeast China in Surprise Visit

It is the Kim's third trip to the country in a little more than a year.

May 21, 2011— -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il toured a car factory in the northeast Chinese city of Changchun today on the second day of his secret trip to China.

Kim traveled to the factory of FAW, China's second-largest automaker by sales, after arriving at Changchun's train station this morning, a source told South Korea's Yonhap News Agency.

Despite speculation that heir-apparent Kim Jong-Un might be with him, South Korean authorities confirmed that the young Kim is not part of the entourage.

This is the North Korean leader's third trip to China in a little more than a year. Last August, Kim held summit talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

The group was seen heading towards the city's South Lake Hotel, according to Yonhap News Agency.

On Friday, Kim held an unexpected meeting with China's Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang in Tumen, just one day before leaders of South Korea, China and Japan are to meet in Japan.

The international community has been urging North Korea to come back to talks designed to scrap Pyongyang's nuclear program in return for economic assistance.

South Korean president Lee Myung-Bak has also proposed summit talks.

Chinese Vice Premier Zhang, known to be backing North Korea within the Chinese government, reportedly greeted Kim Jong-il upon arrival and is guiding the tour.

Zhang is fluent in Korean and received a degree in economics from Kim Il Sung University in North Korea.

He was also noted in March for commenting that China needs to support Pyongyang for at least 5 years for heir Kim Jung-Un's new regime to settle in.

According to South Korean media reports, Kim also dined with Propaganda chief of Communist Party of China, Li Changchun, at the hotel.

North Korean Visits to China

Kim, the reclusive leader who rarely travels outside the hermit kingdom, has made six previous China visits during his term of office.

Hard hit from a raft of international sanctions imposed in the past two years, North Korea is in desperate need for both political and economic assistance from its last remaining ally in the region.

Neighboring China has been supporting Pyongyang to follow Beijing's route to gradual economic reform through slew of direct investments in North Korea.

Analysts in Seoul say this trip is also a counter-gesture from Kim showing interest in China's development model plans in Changchun, Jilin and Tumun area.

Kim's frequent visits to China are said to have another calculated purpose of solidifying his son's power base within the North the country prepares for a third generational rule.