JILIN, China (AP) — North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il has turned up in China in a strangely timed visit for the reclusive leader while former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is in North Korea trying to win the release of an imprisoned American.
It marked Kim's second trip to China in three months — unusual for a man who never flies and travels only by armored train.
South Korean media and regional analysts said he may be seeking Chinese aid following flooding in his impoverished country's northwest — and could be laying the diplomatic groundwork for the succession of his son, who is thought to be traveling with him.
In any case, it was unclear whether he would return in time for a meeting with Carter, an elder statesman well-regarded in North Korea despite the two countries' longtime animosity. Carter met with Kim's father, late President Kim Il Sung, on his last trip to Pyongyang in 1994 — a warm meeting that led to a landmark nuclear disarmament deal.
Neither country announced the trip; Kim's travels typically are not publicized by North Korea until after his return.
But his stop in Jilin city in northeastern China was confirmed by two teachers at the Yuwen Middle School, a school Kim's father once attended that carries historic and patriotic significance for North Koreans.
"He definitely came over. But I'm not sure if his son was with him or what time he came," said a physical education teacher who would give only his surname, Zhao.
Another teacher said Kim visited the school in the morning for about 20 minutes. He refused to give his name.
Kim Il Sung attended the school from 1927 to 1930 after his family fled the Japanese occupation of Korea. Kim biographies say he began absorbing communist ideology while at Yuwen, making it pilgrimage site for North Koreans seeking to pay homage to the one-time anti-Japanese guerrilla fighter-turned-president.