North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Kim Jong Il Tours Sites in Yangzhou

Kim Cho'ng-il (circled) steps into a waiting car following a tour of a shopping center near his hotel in Yangzhou, Jiangsu Province, on 23 May 2011 (Photo: Yonhap)

The third and fourth day of Kim Cho’ng-il’s visit to China proceeded in Yangzhou, where he is staying in a state guest house.  During his stay in Yangzhou, he has reportedly toured several sites including an unidentified industrial complex and a shopping center.  There are also rumors that he will meet with former PRC President Jiang Zemin and travel to Shanghai.  Yonhap reports:

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il visited an economic development zone in the eastern city of Yangzhou on Monday in a trip apparently designed to study China’s economic reform, a source said.

Kim later returned to a guest house where he is staying after reaching the eastern city by train on Sunday on his third trip to the North’s last remaining ally in just over a year, the source said, without giving any further details.

Details of Kim’s itinerary have yet to be confirmed, though there is speculation that Kim could visit a solar energy company before touring a historical place related to his late father Kim Il-sung.

Kim may also meet with former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, with whom he held talks in his previous trips to China in 2000, 2001 and 2004.

North Korea’s founder Kim Il-sung also met with Jiang in Yangzhou in 1991.

Meanwhile, a special train that carried Kim to Yangzhou is not at the city’s train station, triggering speculation that the North’s leader may travel to another city, possibly Shanghai.

Kim last visited Shanghai in 2001 and marveled at its development.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said Sunday in Tokyo that Beijing invited Kim in an effort to help Pyongyang learn about Chinese economic development and use it for reviving the North’s economy.

KBS English reports:

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il arrived in the eastern Chinese city of Yangzhou Sunday night as part of his visit to the country.

Yangzhou is the hometown of the former Chinese President Jiang Zemin and it also has special ties with late North Korean founder Kim Il-sung.

Observers believe that Kim has included a stop at Yangzhou in his packed schedule in order to meet with Jiang, who has continued to have great influence over Chinese leadership despite his retirement from politics.

By meeting Jiang, Kim is expected to flaunt the two countries’ strong bilateral alliance and also solicit his support for North Korea’s power succession process. Some reports say the two already met on Sunday.

The North Korean leader’s next destination appears to be Shanghai.

Chosun Ilbo describes the activity in Yangzhou:

In Yangzhou, police were everywhere. Public access to the state guest house in Yangzhou along the shore of touristy Shouxi, or Slender West Lake, was banned. On Saturday, Kim visited the Changchun-based First Automobile Works Group, one of the top two carmakers in China alongside Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation. There are rumors that FAW Group will invest in the Rajin-Sonbong special economic zone in North Korea. A Hongqi sedan, FAW’s top brand, was given to Kim as a gift.

Seen here is the state guest in Yangzhou, Jiangsu Province, in which North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is staying. Kim arrived in the Chinese city on May 22, the third day of his secretive visit (Yonhap)

Korea Herald reports on a rumored dinner between Kim Cho’ng-il and Jiang Zemin:

After his two separate outings, Kim appeared to have dinner with former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, the source said.

“I understand there was a dinner combined with a performance by the Chinese Jiangsu Province Art Troupe tonight, attended by Kim and Jiang,” the source said.

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, widely tipped as China’s next leader, seems not to be accompanying Kim during his itineraries in Yangzhou, which is different from media speculation.

China’s official Xinhua news agency reported that Xi met with former Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in Beijing on Monday, indicating the Chinese leader may have left Yangzhou in the morning or may have not visited the eastern Chinese city to greet the Pyongyang leader.

Kim’s meeting with Jiang, if confirmed, may be part of Kim’s efforts to broaden Chinese endorsement of his plan to extend his family dynasty into a third generation, considering that Jiang is still believed to wield considerable clout.

North Korea’s founder Kim Il-sung met with Jiang in Yangzhou in 1991.

Hankyoreh reports about Kim Cho’ng-il’s activities in the PRC since his arrival on Friday [20 May]:

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il arrived at the city of Yangzhou in Jiangsu Province, near Shanghai, at around 9 p.m. (local time) on Sunday, the third day of his China trip. The whereabouts of his train had been unclear after passing Liaoning Province’s Shenyang Station at around 7 p.m. on May 21 without stopping following a visit to the three provinces of northeastern China on May 20 and 21, but the train arrived at Yangzhou Station under heavy security Sunday evening.

Analysts are saying one of the aims of Kim’s trip to Yangzhou is to look back upon and show off Pyongyang’s connection with Beijing. The city, a hub for China’s Grand Canal, is the home of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin and was also the destination of a 1991 visit by Kim Il-sung. Some observers say that Kim, who met with Jiang three times during previous China visits, plans to reunite with him during this visit to Yangzhou.

Kim, who came to China on May 20 by way of the Tumen River city of Tumen in Jilin Province, is following a relentless schedule. He headed south for Yangzhou after spending the three days through May 22 crossing all three northeastern Chinese provinces of Jilin, Heilongjiang, and Liaoning. Since departing from Pyongyang, Kim’s train has traveled more than 3,000 kilometers of Chinese territory in three days, not including the distance traveled within North Korea to North Hamgyong Province. Also, the train has continued traveling twenty-four hours a day, with the North Korean leader bunking in a special car rather than at hotels.

Following his arrival in Tumen on the morning of May 20, Kim immediately headed to Mudanjiang in Heilongjiang to look at a historical site for the anti-Japanese resistance. After having dinner at the Holiday Inn, Kim departed by train late at night and arrived in Changchun at 8:20 the next morning. Contrary to expectations, he continued traveling for more than twelve hours through the night without stopping in Harbin. In Changchun, he visited the FAW Group and had a lunch meeting with Chinese officials at the Nanhu Hotel before immediately departing from Changchun Station by special train. The train appears to have arrived in Yangzhou on Sunday afternoon after passing through Shenyang without stopping at around seven o’clock Saturday evening, indicating that Kim spent more than 24 straight hours on the train.

And there are reports on both sides of the DPRK-PRC border about the security and transportation for the trip.  Daily NK, via AFP, reports:

Meanwhile, Daily NK, a Seoul-based media outlet specializing in North Korean news, quoted a source in the North as saying that heavy security measures were implemented beginning Thursday night near the border with China.

“An order was made to refurbish the railway from Pyongyang to the Tumen River around April 20 and the residents and the employees of railway authorities have been mobilized every day since then to clean edges and lay ballast [on the railway], ” a source in Chongjin, a northeastern North Korean city near the Tumen River border with China, was quoted as saying by Daily NK.

A special train used by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il sits at Yangzhou Station on May 22. (Yonhap)

Yonhap reports about the traffic tie-ups and lack of hotel reservations:

The 69-year-old North Korean leader crossed the border into the northeastern Chinese city of Tumen on Friday, riding a special train for his private use. After passing through Mudanjiang, Changchun and Shenyang, all located in the northeastern part of China, he arrived in Yangzhou near Shanghai late Sunday, prompting the Chinese authorities to block roads and deny access to the city’s train station.
“Kim Jong-il has come again, and he’s taken the train once more,” wrote one netizen on the Chinese microblogging Web site Weibo. “Every time Kim Jong-il’s train passes, China’s train schedule becomes a mess and it becomes a huge nuisance to China. I hear that China made numerous suggestions to Kim Jong-il that he should come by plane, but he still came by train.”

At about 2 p.m., hours before Kim’s arrival in Yangzhou, China’s Public Security officers were already lining the 8-kilometer road connecting the train station to the guest house where he would stay.

By 6 p.m., some 50 cars with Chinese officials had reached the train station to greet Kim upon his arrival. Around this time, only passengers with tickets were allowed inside the station while all cars were blocked from entering the area. When Kim eventually arrived on his special train around 8 p.m., the Chinese authorities stopped all traffic in the area for 10 minutes while the North Korean leader was taken to his guest house.

“The Public Security Bureau ordered us not to receive any foreign guests starting Sunday,” said an employee at a hotel near Kim’s guest house. “Foreigners are only allowed to stay with permission from the Bureau.”

Other netizens also expressed their annoyance at Kim’s preferred mode of transportation.

An affiliate of 38 North