Beijing has issued an explicit denial of reports that Kim Jong-il's youngest son and heir apparent had recently visited China and met President Hu Jintao, likening the claims to a James Bond novel.
The comments by the Foreign Ministry's spokesman, Qin Gang, came two days after he failed to quell rumours about the supposed visit by the North Korean leader's son when he said: 'We have no information on this.'
Yesterday he said that journalists were apparently incapable of grasping the 'oriental subtleness' in his earlier remarks.
'The situation reported ... does not exist at all,' he said. The Foreign Ministry initially refused to comment on the article carried by Japan's Asahi newspaper on Tuesday.
The newspaper quoted sources saying that 26-year-old Kim Jong-un travelled to China, probably last week, on a secret trip to cities including Beijing and Guangzhou. During the trip, the Chinese leadership was supposedly told by a North Korean aide that Kim Jong-un was appointed heir and already held an important post in the Korean Workers' Party. Mr Hu was said to have cautioned his guest against North Korea conducting another nuclear test.
But all these details, Mr Qin said, were like something out of a James Bond novel.
'[The reports] read like a 007 novel ... I wonder what they will be writing in the next sequel,' he said.