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Twitter Send 2010/05/02 16:45 KST
N. Korean leader's trip to China seen imminent: source

SEOUL, May 2 (Yonhap) -- A trip to China by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il appears imminent, a South Korean government source said Sunday.

   The North's leader "has not crossed into China yet, but it appears highly likely that his Chinese trip would come either today or tomorrow as a considerable level of preparations have been done," the source said on condition of anonymity.

   The source did not provide specifics.

   If realized, Kim's long-speculated trip to China had been expected to raise the prospects of reopening six-nation talks on ending North Korea's nuclear programs. But such chances were thrown into doubt in the wake of the sinking of a South Korean naval ship in waters near North Korea.

   The communist nation is a primary suspect in the sinking, though it denies responsibility.

   If Kim goes to China, he is expected to seek aid to support the North's crumbling economy.

   The reclusive leader rarely travels abroad, and there have been rumors that he fears flying. Neighboring China and Russia, accessible by Kim's luxurious armored train, have been his only foreign destinations in many years.

   Kim's previous visits to China were made in 2000, 2001, 2004 and 2006.