North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Have you seen your Suryongni’mui traveling in the shadow?

While the recovery mission and investigation of the tragic sinking of the ROK naval corvette Cheonan continues, Yonhap reports that ROK-based Pyongyang watchers are looking for indications that Kim Jong-il will travel to China this week.

North Korea watchers say this week is the best time if Kim intends to visit the neighboring nation in the near future because Pyongyang’s rubber-stamp legislature is scheduled to convene late next week. Kim’s trip to China, if realized, would be a key indication that the North is ready to return to international nuclear talks.

“There are still no definitive signs that Chairman Kim will visit China,” a senior government official said, referring to the reclusive leader by his official title as head of the National Defense Commission. “However, the government is maintaining a close watch with all possibilities open.”

Feeding speculation about Kim’s Chinese trip was his frequent visits to areas near the country’s border with China.

According to a report by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency on Thursday, Kim recently visited factories in the northwestern North Pyongan Province where his favorite Chinese travel route begins. That raised speculation Kim may be readying for a trip to China.

There have been reports for several years of KJI traveling to China.  Rumors of KJI traveling to China increased after October 2009 when PRC Premier Wen Jiabao visited the DPRK.  Subsequent trips to Beijing by United Front Department Director Kim Yang-gon, NDC Member and Deputy Director of the MPAF General Political Department General Kim Jong-gak, NDC Member and Minister of Public Security General Ju Sang-song, NDC Member and Senior Deputy Director of the State Security Department Colonel-General U Tong-chuk and KWP International Department Director Kim Yong-il have been interpreted as indications of advance work for a Kim Jong-il trip to China.

Sunny Lee recently recounted the KJI China Trip rumors for an excellent story in Korea Times.

Kim Jong-il conducts a guidance tour of factories in North Pyongan late last week, close to the DPRK's border with China (Photo: KCNA).

An affiliate of 38 North