Kim pays surprise visit: Media reports

08:15, August 30, 2010      

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Questions and concerns over the aim of North Korea leader Kim Jong-il's reported visit to China mounted over the weekend with elaborate media reports that tracked his unconfirmed journey.

Kim was thought to be heading home Saturday night, when various media outlets said his special train left Changchun, the capital city of Northeast China's Jilin Province. But South Korean media said there was no sign of the train entering North Korea Sunday morning via the Chinese border cities of Dandong or Ji'an, the two most likely gateways.

This led to speculation that Kim was heading toward a third destination in China after his surprise visit to reportedly meet with high-ranking Chinese officials.

Yonhap reported that Kim was believed to have then traveled to China's border cities of Yanji or Tumen.

The Yonhap News Agency cited an unidentified diplomatic source in Yanji, capital of China's Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, as saying that Yanbian's local government was busy preparing to receive a visitor likely to be Kim.

Yonhap said a visit by Kim to Yanbian would be a sign that there has been development in the economic-cooperation talks between the two countries.

The South's cable news channel YTN also reported that Tumen began cleaning up major streets and restricting traffic Sunday morning.

Neither China nor North Korea have made Kim's visit public. The visit was Kim's sixth trip to China and his second in about three months. He met with Chinese President Hu Jintao during his previous visit in May.

The Associated Press quoted a duty officer with the press office of the Chinese Foreign Ministry as saying, "China and North Korea consistently maintain high-level contacts. We will release the relevant information in good time," when the officer was asked whether Kim was visiting China.

The media's watchful gaze

On Thursday, the first day of his visit, Kim went to Yuwen Middle School in Jilin city of the province, where his father, North Korean founder Kim Il-sung, went to school in the 1920s, Reuters reported.

The Chosun Ilbo newspaper and Yonhap both reported that Kim was believed to have met President Hu in Changchun on Friday.

On Saturday, Kim toured an agriculture exhibition site and Jilin Agricultural University in Changchun, Yonhap said.

Speculation also persisted on the aim of Kim's visit, which was believed to be related to power succession, perhaps to introduce his youngest son, Kim Jong-un, to Chinese leaders.

Reuters cited an unidentified source as saying Kim Jong-il was accompanied by his youngest son in the trip to seek Beijing's approval of plans for his son to eventually succeed him.

But Cui Zhiying, a professor specializing in the Korean Peninsula at Tongji University, ruled out speculation about China's involvement in discussions about the succession.

"The succession of North Korea leaders is their domestic affair. China will not intervene in the domestic affairs of its neighboring country," he said

Kim's visit came at the time when North Korea has expressed a willingness to return to the Six-Party Talks on denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, which have been stalled since 2008.

It also came as a surprise, especially as it coincided with a visit to Pyongyang by former US president Jimmy Carter, who returned home Friday with an American, Aijalon Mahli Gomes, who was sentenced in April to eight years in a North Korean prison for entering the country illegally.

Lü Chao, director of the North and South Korea Research Center at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, expressed his surprise about Kim's missing of a meeting with Carter.

"Carter has a good reputation in North Korea. Kim has met him before. But perhaps Kim missed this meeting on purpose to show his toughness and send a message that it will not bow to US pressure after a series of military drills between the US and South Korea," he said.

Editorials in South Korea media expressed concern about Kim's visit, fearing China may back the North and go against the South.

But Lü called this "a distortion of Chinese foreign policy."

"Building friendship between China and North Korea is for the sake of stability of Northeast Asia and for the benefit of all countries," Lu said.

Source: Global Times


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