The North Korean leader may be using look-alikes to hide his poor health. One analyst says that when President Clinton visited in August, he met with an actor, not Kim Jong-il.
Secretary of Defense Gates reassured jittery South Korea of firm US commitment to deterring North's conventional forces and confronting its nuclear threat.
Kim Jong-il's regime also delineated 'no-sail zones' off both its east and west coasts in a bid to show toughness ahead of talks on its nuclear program.
North Korea told China's visiting Prime Minister Wen Jiabao it will return to six-party talks it abandoned in April. But first, it wants bilateral talks with the US.
The authorities have launched a pilot project allowing some trade in renminbi. It comes as top US and Chinese officials wrap up a summit on economic coordination Tuesday.
A survey of 23 experts finds deep concern about Beijing's large dollar holdings
Higher US rates signal an economy on the mend, but they could also extend the housing slump and add to the federal debt.
Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso ended a two-day trip to Beijing Thursday. Both countries affirmed their desire to cooperate but avoided troublesome topics.