North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Week Two of KJI China Trip Watch

Won Se-hoon, head of the ROK’s NIS, has a new prediction about KJI going to China:

Won Se-hoon, head of the National Intelligence Service, was quoted as telling the parliament’s intelligence committee that Kim could travel to China around April 25, considering his likely attendance in his late father’s birthday ceremony on April 15 and the overseas travel schedule of Chinese President Hu Jintao, according to a lawmaker who was present in the meeting.

Last week, South Korea’s presidential office said Kim appeared to be ready to make the trip in the near future. Some had expected him to travel last weekend, but it did not happen.

Despite his recent public schedule, and with the 2nd session of the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly set to begin on Friday,  Yonhap reports that ROK observers still await Kim Jong Il’s departure for Beijing.

“There is circumstantial evidence (of Kim’s imminent trip to China),” ministry spokesman Kim Young-sun told a press briefing.

“(The government) is closely following the possibility,” he added.

Last week, South Korea’s presidential office Cheong Wa Dae had said Kim appears ready to make the trip which Seoul and its allies hope will result in North Korea returning to the six-nation nuclear talks stalled since December 2008.
China is the host of the talks also attended by the U.S., Japan and Russia.

Some had expected him to travel last weekend, but the North’s official media placed him in the country, breaking its usual practice by revealing the specific date of his public appearance in an apparent attempt to discredit reports of him having left for China.

An official privy to North Korea-China relations said the two sides may have already finished preparing for Kim’s trip and that they are only waiting for the right time.

Meanwhile, the DPRK is threatening to stop preserving the remains of US personnel missing or killed in action during the Korean War, preventing future recovery missions:

The two sides held talks in January about resuming the excavation project, but little progress was made.

“Though lots of U.S. remains are being dug out and scattered here and there in our country, our side will no longer be concerned about it,” a North Korean army spokesperson said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

The statement warned the U.S. will be “wholly responsible” if the remains of U.S. soldiers in North Korea are “washed off and lost.”

North Korea has been expanding efforts this year to diversify its sources of income, pressing South Korea to resume lucrative cross-border tours to its scenic mountain on the east coast and launching a state development bank aimed at luring foreign capital.

The U.S. conducted 33 recovery missions in North Korea from 1996-2005, finding the remains of about 230 people believed to be American soldiers.

“We are very surprised at the U.S. which is turning away from the fact that its servicemen’s remains are being spoiled and scattered here and there,” the North said, arguing the U.S. has developed a “humanitarian issue into a political problem.”

An affiliate of 38 North