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Kim Jong Un: Dead or alive

Rumors have been swirling around Twitter and its Chinese counterpart, Weibo, that North Korea's young new leader has died.

China ships rice to North Korea after Kim Jong Il's death

Kim Jong Il's death might have been good news to the hungry citizens of North Korea.
North korea china rice food aid 2012 1 31Enlarge
China is shipping rice to North Korea, where malnutrition for children is still high. Here, children attend a nursery with special food provided by the World Food Program in Pyongyang. (Gerald Bourke/Getty Images)

A Japanese newspaper reports that China has initiated big shipments of rice to the Hermit Kingdom in recent days, something it agreed to do only after the Dear Leader departed.

The Tokyo Shimbun reported that China's president and others decided in late December to begin massive food shipments to North Korea in the wake of Kim Jong Il's death. AFP says shipments were made over 10 days earlier this month, before the Chinese New Year.

More from GlobalPost: Will North Korea change for the better?

It's unclear how Kim's son and successor was involved in making the deal with China for food aid, but one of China's interests doesn't seem to have changed. With its own political power transition afoot, China remains set on maintaining stability in North Korea and preventing a flood of refugees.

More from GlobalPost: An in-depth series: After Kim Jong Il

Following large-scale North Korean refugee incursions during recent famines, the Chinese government has made a practice in recent years of returning North Koreans to their country when they're caught here. Returnees faced punishment and possible death back home, and China's unspoken policy seems to have stemmed the tide of North Koreans.

Rice shipments might ensure that fewer people feel compelled to leave during the leadership transition. 

More from GlobalPost: The AP opens bureau in North Korea

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