North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Kim Jong Il’s Return

Kim Cho'ng-il's railroute during his almost week-long trip to the PRC with the red line indicating the first portion of his trip and the light green line indicating the back end of his trip through Beijing to the DPRK. (Photo: Google image)

Kim Cho’ng-il has returned to the DPRK via Dandong.  His third trip to the PRC in less than year remains open to interpretation.  Two events scheduled on either end of the DPRK-PRC border intended to highlight the countries’ cooperation were reportedly postponed.  Yonhap, via Korea Herald reports:

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il returned home Friday after concluding a weeklong trip to China reportedly designed to promote bilateral economic and diplomatic relations.

Kim’s special train crossed the China-North Korea border into the North’s border city of Sinuiju earlier in the day after a 6,000-kilometer-long journey that took him to China’s northeastern and prosperous eastern areas and Beijing.

The special train departed from Beijing on Thursday afternoon after Kim held summit talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao on the previous day. It arrived at China’s northeastern border city of Dandong at 5:30 a.m. Friday via Shenyang before heading for the North Korea border at 6:30 a.m., apparently after a one-hour farewell ceremony.

Kim called for a quick resumption of the long-stalled talks on ending Pyongyang’s nuclear programs during his summit talks with Hu in Beijing on Wednesday, according to China’s official Xinhua News Agency.

But Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) gave a toned-down account, saying that Kim and Hu recognized that a peaceful resolution of the nuclear standoff through dialogue, including the resumption of the nuclear talks, and the “elimination of obstructive elements” conform to the overall interests in the region.

The KCNA did not elaborate on what the “obstructive elements” mean.

Also Wednesday, North Korea’s top diplomat renewed Pyongyang’s commitment to revive the disarmament-for-aid talks that Pyongyang quit in 2009.

North Korea “is making efforts to quickly resume the six-nation talks by cooperating with parties concerned,” North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun said in a conference in Indonesia, according to the North’s state broadcaster, which was monitored in Seoul.

The North has repeatedly expressed its interest in returning to the talks, but its refusal to take responsibility for its two deadly attacks last year on South Korea has hindered diplomatic efforts to revive the talks that also include South Korea, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan.

South Korea and the U.S. have urged Pyongyang to first take concrete steps demonstrating its denuclearization commitment before resuming the nuclear talks.

Seoul has also demanded the North first apologize for last year’s attacks that claimed the lives of 50 South Koreans.

Meanwhile, two planned groundbreaking ceremonies that would have marked China’s additional investment in North Korea have been abruptly canceled, an indication that the two sides have differences on the projects.

The two sides had been scheduled to hold a ceremony for a joint project to turn Hwanggumpyong, an island in the Yalu River near the Sinuiju-Dandong border, into an industrial complex, according to a source.

Another ceremony in Rason, the North’s free trade zone on the northeast, was canceled.

Christine Kim and Chang Se-jong reported about Kim Cho’ng-il’s meetings in Beijing and his trip back to the DPRK:

After the highlight of Kim Jong-il’s week-long trip to China, a meeting with President Hu Jintao in the Great Hall of the People on Wednesday night, the North Korean leader started wending his way home with a stop in “China’s Silicon Valley.”

China’s state broadcaster China Central Television confirmed Kim’s meeting with Hu late yesterday, after Kim had left Beijing. The broadcaster said Kim expressed a wish to resume stalled six-party denuclearization talks “soon.” It also reported that Hu urged Kim to work toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula during their talks.

According to witnesses, Kim ended his meeting with Hu at 8:45 p.m. Wednesday and was seen exiting the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, where he had been lodged in Beijing, yesterday morning around 10 a.m.

Kim traveled by car to the IT services provider and computer manufacturer Shenzhou Shuma, or Digital China in Beijing’s Zhongguancun district, which is known as “China’s Silicon Valley.”

Kim had visited the industrial district on a previous trip to China in April 2004. Li Keqiang, China’s first-ranked vice premier, who could be named prime minister next year, was seen accompanying Kim by the JoongAng Ilbo and other witnesses.

During the visit to the computer manufacturer, Kim was said to have showed great interest in equipment related to Internet use. A large, white sheet was hung in front of the building to shield the North’s leader from view.

Kim’s armored private train left Beijing around 2:20 p.m. yesterday, and headed north. Kim got what he wanted from the trip, according to diplomatic officials in China: economic and political support for North Korea.

According to the sources, he discussed the power transfer to his son Kim Jong-un with Hu and requested his support. During the meeting, Kim and Hu recommitted themselves to economic agreements, such as North Korea agreeing to let China use its Rajin Port, guaranteeing its access to the East Sea.

In return, China had earlier agreed to invest in a joint cooperation project in Hwanggumpyong, an island near the mouth of the Yalu River.

Bystanders who managed a glimpse of Kim said he looked “robust” and walked without stiffness, seemingly recovered from a stroke in 2008. Kim is thought to be headed to Dandong, Liaoning Province, which is 13 hours from Beijing by rail.

In the left photo, a woman sits wearing a yellow jacket, thought to be Kim Jong-il’s fourth wife and named Kim Ok, with Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo, right, during a banquet at the Great Hall of the People in Bejing, May 25. She attends the North Korea-China summit. (Via Hankyoreh; Captured from CCTV Yonhap)

DPRK media reported about Kim Cho’ng-il’s meeting with Hu Jintao:

Kim Jong Il cordially met with Hu Jintao in Beijing on May 25 and held talks with him.

Present at the talks from the Chinese side were Xi Jinping, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the C.C., the CPC and vice-president of the PRC; Ling Jihua, member of the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the CPC and director of the General Office of the C.C., the CPC; Dai Bingguo, state councilor; Wang Jiarui, head of the International Liaison Department of the C.C., the CPC; Yang Jiechi, minister of Foreign Affairs; Zhang Ping, head of the National Development and Reform Committee; Chen Deming, minister of Commerce; Liu Jieyi, deputy head of the International Liaison Department of the C.C., the CPC; and Liu Hongcai, Chinese ambassador e. p. to the DPRK.

Present there were Kang Sok Ju, member of the Political Bureau of the C.C., the WPK and vice-premier of the DPRK Cabinet; Kim Yong Il, alternate member and secretary of the C.C., the WPK; and Kim Kye-kwan, first vice-minister of Foreign Affairs.

Kim Jong Il’s visit to China is of particularly weighty importance in developing the traditional friendly and cooperative relations between the two countries on a higher stage, Hu Jintao noted, warmly welcoming his visit to China on behalf of the Chinese party, government and people.

He extended kind greetings to all the Korean people in their dynamic drive to open the gate to a thriving nation in 2012, the centenary of birth of President Kim Il Sung, in hearty response to the spirit of the historic conference of the WPK.

Noting that the China visit paid by Kim Jong Il nine months after his two visits to China last year clearly proves what great importance he is attaching to the traditional Sino-DPRK friendship provided by the leaders of the elder generation of the two countries, Hu Jintao highly appreciated the devoted service rendered by Kim Jong Il for the steady development of the bilateral friendship. Hu Jintao stressed that Kim Jong Il’s appraisal of the changes taking place
in China, making a long trip to the Northeastern and Huadong regions of China, was boundless encouragement and full support to the struggle of the Chinese people.

Kim Jong Il said that he was pleased to meet Hu Jintao again and expressed deep thanks to him for having sent senior officials in the capital as far as the railway station on the border to warmly receive and accord him cordial hospitality during his visit. He extended warm congratulations to all the members of the CPC and people of China on the 90th anniversary of the party.

Kim Jong Il gave his impressions of the visit to the Northeastern and Huadong regions of China making steady progress full of dynamism.

Kim Jong Il said that during his visit he could witness for himself the dynamic progress in the rapidly changing land of China through the achievements made in the economic and cultural fields and in the domain of the cutting-edge science and technology in its vast land.

The top leaders of the two parties and countries informed each other of the situation in their countries and had an open-hearted exchange of views on boosting the relations between the two parties and countries and reached a full consensus of views in a comradely, sincere and friendly atmosphere.

They shared the view that it is the common sacred responsibility which no others can perform instead and steadfast stand to carry forward and develop down through generations the DPRK-China friendly and cooperative relations which have covered the 60 odd year-long proud and historic path and have been put on a new higher stage.

They recognized that according to the agreement the leaders of the two parties and countries reached after their meeting in Changchun last year the governments and peoples of the two countries have striven to put the issues into practice in various fields.

It is favorable for more dynamically pushing forward socialist construction in the two countries, better protecting and promoting the common interests of the two sides and regional peace, stability and prosperity to boost the bilateral relations in various fields including high-level visits, brisk exchange of human culture and expansion of experience swap and mutually beneficial cooperation, they said, and discussed a series of measures to this end and reached an agreement.

It is the requirement of a new period and new situation to strengthen the unity between the two parties and countries and advance the bilateral friendly and cooperative relations with the era, Hu Jintao said, noting that the CPC and the PRC government will creditably discharge the historic responsibility for steadfastly carrying forward the baton of the traditional Sino-DPRK friendship associated with the noble soul of the revolutionaries of th e elder generation of the two countries.

The Chinese side is set to inject fresh life and viability into the Sino-DPRK friendship and promote and put spurs to the development of the Sino-DPRK good neighborly relations of friendship and cooperation and boost them in wider dimension by pooling efforts with the DPRK side and thus bring greater wellbeing to the two countries and peoples and make a greater contribution to peace, stability and prosperity in Northeast Asia and, furthermore, in the rest of the world, Hu Jintao noted.

The DPRK-China friendship with a long history and tradition with the two countries linked by the same mountain and rivers is unbreakable as it stood all storms and tests and it will remain evergreen no matter how much water may flow under the bridge and how frequently one generation is replaced by another, Kim Jong Il said, re-clarifying the invariable will and determination of the WPK and the DPRK government to boost the friendly and cooperative relations in conformity with the noble intention of the leaders of the elder generation of the two countries and the desire of the two peoples.

Kim Jong Il expressed thanks to the party and government of China for having consistently set store by the DPRK-China friendship in the light of the strategic importance and from a prospective angle and having positively supported the Korean people in their struggle to defend socialism and achieve the prosperity of the country.

He reiterated the will to exert every possible effort for further consolidating the bonds of fraternal friendship enshrined in the minds of the two peoples and dynamically boosting the bilateral friendship, the common treasure of the two countries, in various fields.

Appreciating the new successes being made by the Chinese people in the efforts to accomplish the cause of building socialism with Chinese characteristics, he said that the Korean people are rejoiced as over their own success over the fact that everything is going well in China, their neighbor.

At the talks the two sides highly estimated the fact that the good-neighborliness, friendship and cooperation between the two countries grew stronger after a series of historic meetings held between the top leaders of the DPRK and China in recent years and expressed mutual support and solidarity with the two parties and peoples in the struggle for socialist construction and national reunification.

Hu Jintao highly appreciated the positive measures taken by the DPRK to defend stability and peace, develop economy and improve the standard of people’s living, wishing the Korean people greater success in socialist construction under the wise leadership of the WPK led by Kim Jong Il.

He supported the Party, government and people of the DPRK firmly preserving socialism and exploring the road of development suited to its reality, expressing belief that the whole Party, the country and the people would achieve shining successes through a dynamic struggle, single-mindedly united around Kim Jong Il.

Kim Jong Il expressed expectation that the Chinese people would win steady new victories in the historical course of furthering the building of the party’s ability to govern, realizing scientific outlook on development and building a harmonious society under the guidance of the CPC with Hu Jintao as its general secretary, wishing them signal achievements this year, the first year of the 12th five-year plan.

Both sides had a sincere and in-depth exchange of views on international and regional issues of mutual concern, the situation in Northeast Asia, in particular.

KCNA also reported a partial list of the 70-person party that traveled with Kim Cho’ng-il.  It included Jang Song Taek (Chang So’ng-t’aek); Kim Ki Nam (Kim Ki-nam); Choe Tae Bok (Choe T’ae-pok);  Tae Jong Su (T’ae Cho’ng-su); Pak To Chun (Pak To’-chun); Mun Kyong Dok (Mun Kyo’ng-t’ok); and, Ju Kyu Chang (Chu Kyu-chang).  Chosun Ilbo reports about the accommodation enjoyed by some of these folks while in Yangzhou:

Each room is accessed by elevator and circular staircase. The ground floor consists of a large lobby and a dining room that can accommodate about 40 people. Big double doors lead to a spacious reception room. It also has a drawing room with antique furniture and marble flooring.

One wall of the bedroom is made of glass so guests can enjoy a full view of Shouxi Lake, a national tourist attraction. Rooms are decorated with calligraphy scrolls, ceramics and paintings. “All these art pieces are invaluable national treasures,” a hotel employee said.

The suite has a palatial bedroom. There is a separate, medium-sized bedroom for the guest’s consort. Each room has a wall-mounted super-size flat-panel TV. Bathrooms have large bathtubs, where guests can enjoy views of Shouxi Lake from the bathtub, gym equipment, and massage chairs.

At a hall in the villa on Monday evening, Kim watched a performance given by the Dongfang Performing Arts Troupe from Beijing. “When he was here, he spent most of time in his room,” the staffer said. “When he was outside, he took a pleasure boat near the hotel and went out on Shouxi Lake.”

Interior of the Yangzhou State Guesthouse, where North Korean leader Kim Jong-il stayed over the weekend (Chosun Ilbo)

Kim Cho’ng-il’s was not the only delegation from the DPRK leadership in the PRC.  On 25 May Chen Yong, assistant chief of the PLA General Staff, met with Ri Bong Chuk, administration director of the DPRK Border Guard.  Signs of Kim Cho’ng-il’s end of the week return were evident with the presence of MSS and MPS officials in North P’yo’ngan.  Open Radio for North Korea reports:

A source from the North Korean National Security Agency 2nd Division said on the 24th, “Guards and security agents from three northeastern provinces are operating from place to place because of Kim Jong-il’s visit.” This suggests that Kim Jong-il who has been in China since last Friday will return home via Dandung.

The source says there has been an augmentation in the security presence in Dandung and Sonyang. Telescopes have been set up to keep watch on the city and its people in the Yinghua hotel and the apartment blocks behind it in the area surrounding the rail bridge across the Yalu in the city.

An attempt is being made to ascertain the identity of individuals Koreans as they come in and out of the city as well as to keep a watch on the city government’s principal individuals. North Koreans in China are being contacted in their hotels and oredered to assist in order to secure the safety of their relatives in North Korea.

“A lot of Koreans live in Sonyang,” said the source. “North Korean special agents are driviong around in groups of three and four in deluxe cars making reports. They are not wearing Kim Jong-il badge mneans of identification and disguising themselves as Chinese or South Koreans and gathering information, even in highway rest stop stations.”

“They say they are collecting economic information,” finished the source. “But when you consider that Dandung’s North Koreans say that you couldn’t see these people before, it seems that they are there making preparations for Kim Jong-il’s departure.”

Daily NK reported on the temporary closure of customs offices on the DPRK-PRC border, in advance of Kim Cho’ng-il’s return:

According to one North Korean tourist in China, “Although I intend to return to my home country, Chosun customs are not processing people.”

Another North Korean, Kim, who arrived in China back in February, explained, “I went to Changbai maritime customs on the 23rd, but they said Chosun customs were not doing anything and wouldn’t perform exit procedures, so I just came back.”

According to Kim, Chinese customs officials could not offer any explanation as to why this was the case, saying, “We don’t know anything, either. When they re-start work, we will let you out.”

Similarly, Shinuiju customs house is also closed. One source in Dandong, just across the Yalu River revealed, “In one hostel in downtown Dandong where North Korean visitors have been staying, there are many people treading water, wondering what to do.”

According to information verified by The Daily NK, eleven customs houses along the length of North Korea’s border with China are actually closed in advance of Kim’s return to the country.

In the past, those customs houses set to be passed by Kim’s private train were closed for at least a day prior to his transiting the area. However, this increased the chance of his return route becoming widely known. This was amply proven in 2004, when the station at Yongcheon through which Kim’s train had passed moments before was destroyed by an explosion.

An affiliate of 38 North