North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Not Beijing Bound?

Yonhap quotes an anonymous ROK Official who says that, “Kim Jong-il won’t make a visit to China soon.”  A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said earlier this week of the trip, “I haven’t heard any such news.”  Earlier reports speculated that Kim Jong-il would visit China in January or February of 2010.  Two separate reports in the Japanese press appeared last week fueling the fires of speculation on General-Secretary Kim being Beijing bound. 

Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “A source knowledgeable about China-North Korea relations revealed that a special standby alert went into effect in the Chinese city of Dandong in Liaoning Province, which is next to China’s border with North Korea, on 6 January. . .[a] special standby alert went into effect from 12:00 a.m. on the 6th. The strengthening of the security presence within Dandong is centered on increases in the number of guards and armed police, while any suspicious-looking objects along the railway line from Dandong to Shenyang are being removed.”   Yomiuri Shimbun also pointed out the security measures in Dandong could be clampdown on the North Korean border.

Nihon Keizai reported: “from 5 January persons will not be permitted to pass through customs on the PRC-DPRK border unless they have special permission, thus effectively closing the border. The number of police officers patrolling Dandong Station, through which the railway from North Korea to Beijing passes, has also greatly increased. The speculation is that these are preparations for a visit to China by North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.”  Nihon Keizai is also careful to point out that closure of the Customs Office could be routine measures associated with closure of the DPRK-PRC border.

When these reports appeared between 6 and 7 January last week, Korean Central News Agency placed General-Secretary Kim on inspection tours in North Hwanghae Province.  Between November and December of 2009, MPAF GPB Senior Deputy Director Gen. Kim Jong-gak, Senior Deputy Director of the State Security Department Col. Gen. U Tong-chuk and Minister of Public Security Gen. Ju Sang-song (all of whom are members of the National Defense Commission) visited Beijing.  While Gens. Kim and Ju had official pretexts to visit the PRC, it is likely they could have been engaged in conducting advance security measure for a trip by General-Secretary Kim.  Col. Gen. U’s reported trip was not disclosed and has never been verified.

General-Secretary Kim is long overdue in visiting China.  Perhaps the DPRK are awaiting certain conditions to be fulfilled.  Another factor could be determining who will join General-Secretary Kim’s travel party to Beijing.  One holdout on a trip to China may be NDC Vice Chair and Minister of the People’s Armed Forces, VMAR Kim Yong-chun.  VMAR Kim has escorted General-Secretary Kim on previous foreign trips, but he was reported to be in ill health as of late December 2009.

Kim Jong-il and his entourage are all smiles during his inspection of a power station in North Hwanghae Province. He is also nowhere even close to a train ride to China or rumored birthday celebrations in Pyongyang (Photo: KCNA).

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This article was written on 09 Jan 2010, and is filled under DPRK External Relations, DPRK-China Relations, International Department, Kim Jong-il, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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