By Stephanie Ho
Kim Jong il’s son Kim Jong Un joined top North Korean officials visiting his father’s glass casket in Pyongyang Tuesday. Stephanie Ho reports from Beijing that as North Koreans mourned the elder Kim, China formally recognized his designated heir as the country’s next leader.
North Korean state television carried still images of Kim Jong Il’s body, covered by a red blanket in a glass topped coffin surrounded by red flowers.
North Korean media reported that top military and government officials, including Kim Jong Un, paid their respects to the deceased leader in Pyongyang’s Kumsusan Memorial Palace.
Kim Jong Un remains relatively unknown to the outside world and his age, estimated to be around 28, and relative inexperience have led to speculation that his leadership succession is not assured.
In Beijing Tuesday, Kim received a crucial endorsement when Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said China has faith in him.
He said Beijing believes the North Korean people will tightly unite around the ruling Worker’s Party led by a man he called “Comrade Kim Jong Un,” to build a strong Communist country and realize permanent peace on the Korean peninsula.
The spokesman at first said he had no information about whether Kim Jong Un would visit China. But later, he said Beijing would welcome him.
Liu says China and North Korea have always maintained high-level visits. He says the Chinese government welcomes the North Korean leader to visit when it is convenient for both sides.
China’s state-run Xinhua news agency says President Hu Jintao went to the North Korean embassy in Beijing Tuesday to express his condolences. There were no details of what Hu said during the visit.
At the same time Beijing is showing strong support for North Korea, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi also spoke by telephone with his South Korean and American counterparts. The three countries pledged to remain in close contact on efforts to maintain peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.