North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

More KJI China Trip Scuttlebutt

Mainichi Shimbun reports of an alleged Kim Jong-il trip to China.  Citing an anonymous “diplomatic official in Beijing” the recent delegation led by KWP International Department Director Kim Yong-il is an advance team for a KJI visit in late March.

The DPRK economy is in a dire situation due to a sanctions resolution adopted by the UN Security Council in response to the DPRK’s launching missiles and conducting a nuclear test in 2009, as well as due to its failed currency redenomination policy. Kim apparently wants to draw large-scale aid from the PRC, along with paving the way for improving its relations with the international community.

Kim’s planned visit to the PRC would be his first visit to that country since January 2006. In the PRC, the National People’s Congress (NPC, which is to convene on 5 March) will close around 15 March. Therefore, the PRC will be accepting Kim’s visit after this date. However, the same diplomatic official has pointed out: “There is a possibility that the visit may be delayed until April due to Kim’s need to attend to his official duties.” As to whether Kim will be accompanied by his third son, Kim Jong Un, the most prospective candidate for the elder Kim’s successor, the same official has said, “At the moment, there is no confirmed information.”

Mainichi Shimbun also reports that Kim Yong-il’s recent trip is a cover for logistical arrangements for KJI’s visit:

During his previous visit to the PRC, General Secretary Kim Jong Il traveled as far as Shanghai and Guangzhou. However, a diplomatic official in Beijing has pointed out: “There is a high possibility that in consideration of his health condition, General Secretary Kim will conduct an inspection tour of Beijing and its surrounding areas, and the PRC’s northeastern region (which is close to the DPRK).” It is believed that the route of Kim’s visit to the PRC will be finalized on the basis of the results of Director Kim Yong-il’s inspection mission.

Not to be outdone Chosun Ilbo includes KJI trip rumors in a good synopsis of Kim Yong-il’s extensive tour to China.

On Feb. 23, the first day of his visit, Kim Yong-il paid a courtesy call on President Hu Jintao and met Wang Jiarui, his Chinese counterpart. Wang had been the North early in February and delivered a letter from Hu to Kim Joing-il to invite him to China.

Concluding meetings with Chinese leaders on the first day of his tour, Kim started visiting major cities in north and northeastern China the following day. He visited the Binhai economic zone in Tianjin on Feb. 24. The next day he toured Dalian in Liaoning Province’s coastal economic belt and Shenyang. On Feb. 28, he visited Changchun, Jilin Province. The regional development belt of Changchun, Jilin and Tumen is linked to the Rajin-Sonbong area in North Hamgyong Province, which the North turned into a special economic zone in January.

That the cities Kim visited are all near the border gives rise to a speculation that economic issues will top the agenda if the North Korean leader visits China.

Post-script

Kyodo News Service includes a report prognosticating a KJI trip to China in mid-March:

With the visit, China is expected to draw a positive response from Kim on resuming the stalled six-party denuclearization talks, while North Korea is believed to seek assistance in rebuilding its economy dented by the failure of a currency reform it conducted last November.

According to the sources, North Korea thinks that if Kim visits China right after the NPC, he will be able to hold talks with the Chinese leadership and local government leaders gathering in Beijing for the annual event.

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This article was written on 04 Mar 2010, and is filled under DPRK External Relations, DPRK-China Relations, International Department, Kim Jong-il.

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