BEIJING (Reuters) - North Korea’s Kim Jong-il and China’s leaders vowed that their alliance “sealed in blood” will pass on to their successors, state media said on Thursday, after Kim wound up a visit to the powerful ally key to his plans for dynastic succession.
Kim’s summits with President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao apparently brought no open discussion of who would succeed the aging and secretive North Korean leader, who has singled out his youngest son Kim Jong-un to take over one day.
But both Pyongyang and Beijing hinted that the issue was on their minds and stressed generational changes would not shake their bond, in official reports about Kim’s latest secretive visit, released after he left the Chinese capital.
“You, General Secretary Kim Jong-il, attach great importance to developing Sino-North Korean relations, and since last year have visited China three times, stressing many times that the young generation must properly inherit the friendship between China and North Korea,” Hu told Kim, China’s Xinhua news agency said.
“Kim Jong-il stated that the friendship between China and North Korea and their peoples is a truly precious thing. We must relay this friendship on from one generation to the next. That is our great historic task,” Xinhua said.
Those vows may be a reassurance to China, which sees North Korea as a strategic barrier against the United States and its regional allies.
Both countries’ friendship was “unbreakable, as it stood all storms and tests and it will remain evergreen no matter how much water may flow under the bridge and how frequently one generation is replaced by another,” North Korea’s KCNA news agency cited Kim as saying.
Beijing has shored up its support for Pyongyang in the past two years, despite regional tension centered on North Korea’s actions, drawing closer to Kim as his country readies for a dynastic handover of power that many analysts say could trigger instability and even the onset of collapse.
Kim is looking healthier after seeming to be frail just over two years ago following a stroke, prompting speculation his rule may last longer than many had imagined.
Wen told Kim that he looked “in good health,” KCNA said, praising a friendship with China “sealed in blood.” China fought on the side of the North in the 1950-53 Korean War.
In the past, Kim has rarely traveled abroad and then only in his personal train. He is believed to be afraid of flying.
This week’s trip was Kim’s third to Asia’s biggest economy in just over a year, and it featured stops that may offer lessons for his own tattered and top-down controlled economy.
Kim’s summit with Hu brought no breakthrough on stalled six-party nuclear disarmament talks, but Kim indicated he was not spoiling for fresh fights, after a year in which South Korea blamed the North for sinking a navy ship and shelling an island, sparking confrontation.
“North Korea is now focusing its energies on economic development, and really needs a stable environment around it,” Kim told Hu, according to Xinhua.
“We hope there will be an easing on the Korean peninsula, are adhering to the goal of denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, and advocate restarting the six-party talks. We have always maintained sincerity about improving relations between north and south.”
China has used Kim’s visits to urge him to return to negotiations aimed at ending his nuclear weapons program. North Korea alarmed the region with atomic test blasts in 2006 and 2009 that drew U.N. sanctions backed by China.
The South is still angry with the North for the two deadly attacks last year: the March 2010 sinking of the corvette Cheonan and the shelling of the Yeonpyeong island in November .
The resulting tension has made it difficult for talks to resume, though there are hints that a fresh effort may be in the offing.
Hu nudged Kim, but did not single out North Korea.
Hu said all sides should “remain calm and restrained, show flexibility, remove obstacles, improve relations and make positive efforts to ultimately accomplish peace, stability and development on the peninsula,” according to Xinhua.
Kim was accompanied by his brother-in-law, Jang Song-thaek, who is seen by analysts as being pro-economic reform.
As North Korea’s ties with the South and much of the outside world have soured, Kim has leaned more on ally China for support, which has cost China both in economic aid and in strains with South Korea and other nations alarmed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons development and military brinkmanship.
Kim’s armored train rolled out of Beijing on Thursday afternoon, accompanied by the heavy security that has been his calling card in a visit through northeast China to the prosperous eastern province of Jiangsu and then to Beijing.
Chinese television showed pictures of Kim visiting a dairy farm, a truck factory in the northeastern city of Changchun and a technology center in Yangzhou where he inspected devices including what appeared to be a tablet computer.
“During my visit to China, I’ve seen that everywhere energies are focused on economic and social development,” Kim told Hu, according to Xinhua. “I marveled at it all.”
Additional reporting by Michael Martina and Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Robert Birsel