North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

KJI's First Day in China

Kim Jong Il walks to a waiting car in Dalian on 2 May 2010 (Yonhap)

Yonhap reports on KJI’s departure from Dalian to Beijing:

Members of Kim’s delegation checked out of their hotel in the port city of Dailan, where they spent their first night in China. It was not immediately known where they were headed, but Beijing is a high possibility, sources said.

The delegation is expected to move to the nearby city of Jinzhou by car after dinner and take their special train from there, a source in Dalian said, asking not to be identified. Jinzhou is about half an hour’s drive from Dailan.

The armored train, which Kim used to cross the Chinese border, had been on standby at the Dailan station before loading luggage around 3 p.m. local time. The train was believed to have moved later to the Jinzhou station.

The train is expected to take about 10 hours to reach Beijing.

Earlier in the day, Kim toured a development project area, some 30 kilometers from Dalian, and inspected a port under construction there, according to the sources.

Kim has visited China four times since 2000, with the last trip in January 2006.

China refused to confirm the North’s leader was in the country. Foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said she has no new information, only saying that China and North Korea have “good-neighborly and friendly relations.”

Chosun Ilbo has a rather detailed report on KJI’s first day in China and his time in Dalian:

China reportedly provided Kim with Mercedes-Benz’s premium brand Maybach for the 300-km trip to Dalian from Dandong. The Fulihua Hotel where Kim stayed is one of the most luxurious in Dalian and North Korea reserved an entire new wing until 7 p.m for security reasons. Kim reportedly stayed its presidential suite.

Sources said Kim rested in the morning and went outside three times to look around the port area of Dalian around 2:30 p.m, take part in welcoming ceremony by local Chinese officials at 5:30 p.m. and enjoy the scenery at night.

Traffic around the downtown area was tightly controlled for about an hour and the central Renmin Road and Zhongshan Square were completely blocked at one time in the afternoon.

Diplomats in Beijing said that Kim visited Dalian to look after North Korea-China economic cooperation and Chinese investment in the North, including the North’s ongoing Rajin Port construction project. The city is said to be a benchmark for the port.

Kyodo News reported that Kim Jong Il also attended a welcome dinner reception hosted by Vice Premier Li Keqiang.   Kim Jong Il is expected to arrive in Beijing later on Tuesday, according to KBS which provides an abbreviated rundown on the forthcoming Hu-Kim meeting:

According to a KBS correspondent in Beijing, the train is forecast to arrive in the Chinese capital late Tuesday, with security having been tightened since Monday at several Beijing train stations.

The correspondent says a meeting between Kim and Hu is expected to address the sensitive issue of South Korea’s sunken “Cheonan” vessel, including the actions that will be taken following the investigation into the cause of the incident.

The two are also expected to discuss a possible resumption of the six-party nuclear talks as well as ways to defuse Pyongyang’s food and energy shortage.

Chosun Ilbo also takes a crack at guessing what NK elites are escorting KJI to Beijing.  In examining photos from Dalian, NDC Vice Chairman and Minister of MPAF, VMAR Kim Yong Chun, and KWP United Front Department director Kim Yang Gon were spotted.  Yonhap, using Japanese televison footage, spotted KWP International Secretary Choe Tae Bok:

Kang Sok-chu, first vice foreign minister, is also widely believed to be among the entourage. Kang, who is in charge of North Korea’s relations with the U.S. and is orchestrating the North’s strategy at the six-party nuclear talks, accompanied Kim Jong-il on three out of his four trips to China. Pyongyang’s return to the stalled six-party talks is believed to be top of the agenda in talks between the two allies.

Kim Yong-il, the apparatchik in charge of international affairs and an old China hand, is also apparently among the entourage. There is also the possibility that premier of the North Korean cabinet Kim Young-il or vice premier Roh Doo-chul may also be part of the entourage instead of the party’s planning and finance director Pak Nam-gi, who has apparently been sacked.

Jon Il-chun, the head of North Korea’s state development bank in charge of attracting foreign investment and the chief manager of Kim Jong-il’s slush fund, is also believed to be part of the entourage.

Barbara Demick and John Glionna have a report on KJI’s trip in LA Times, and the Washington Post‘s Lauren Keane has a write-up from Beijing.  Meanwhile, ROK President Lee Myung Bak wrapped up a meeting of his country’s military command on the sinking of the Cheonan.  The South Korean government is officially “not happy” with the upcoming DPRK-PRC meeting, according to Korea Times:

“The government expressed its disappointment and asked Beijing to clarify a few questions it had,” the official said.

The North Korean leader has been in China on the secretive visit since early Monday, and a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao is believed to be imminent.

Seoul’s disappointment is due to the timing of the visit, which comes on the heels of President Lee Myung-bak’s own summit with Hu, according to another Seoul official, also unidentified.

“A visit to China by the North Korean leader is, of course, a bilateral issue between China and North Korea. But the government is not happy about the timing of Kim’s trip,” Yonhap News quoted the official as saying.

On Tuesday afternoon, Kim and his entourage were reportedly set to travel to Beijing.

On the same day, Seoul called on China to take a “responsible role” in regional efforts to deal with the tension on the peninsula, which is mounting as the investigation into the sinking of the South Korean Navy vessel Cheonan continues, the news agency reported.

“It is requested more than ever that China play a responsible role as the current state of affairs on the Korean Peninsula is unfolding in a dynamic way,” Minister of Unification Hyun In-taek told Ambassador Zhang, the report said.

For general background on KJI’s latest railway odyssey, Victor Cha wrote a fascinating FAQ-type essay for CSIS.

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