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Did North Korea's Kim Jong-il take heir-apparent son on surprise China visit?

North Korea's Kim Jong-il began a surprise visit to China Thursday, while former President Carter visited North Korea. The trip raises speculation that the 'Dear Leader' is grooming the son he hopes will succeed him.

A South Korean man watches a TV at a railway station in Seoul, South Korea reporting on North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, Aug. 26. Kim Jong-il began a surprise visit to China Thursday, in what would be his second visit to the country this year.

Ahn Young-joon/AP

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-il began a surprise visit to China Thursday, reportedly accompanied by the son he hopes will succeed him.

Kim Jong-il was seen by teachers at the school in Northeastern China that his father attended 70 years ago. The Chinese government has not confirmed the visit, which would be the reclusive North Korean strongman’s second trip here in less than four months.

South Korean government officials said they had indications that Kim Jong-Un, the North Korean leader’s third son and reported heir apparent, was traveling with his father. Pyongyang announced in June that the ruling Workers Party would stage a rare meeting – the first of its kind in 40 years – next month to make leadership changes.

Those changes could pave the way for Kim Jong-Un’s elevation, experts here say.

“Kim Jong-il has come to persuade the Chinese to support his son,” says Cai Jian, a North Korea expert at Fudan university in Shanghai. “He has come to explain why he wants his son to succeed him and to reassure Chinese leaders that there will be no big policy changes.”

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