North Korea has reportedly discussed with China the possibility of its fledgling leader Kim Jong-un visiting Beijing within this year in an apparent move to gain more economic and political support from its largest patron.
Citing sources both in Pyongyang and Beijing, Japan’s Nihon Geizai Shimbun reported on Sunday that the North’s Worker’s Party’s international affairs secretary, Kim Yong-il, delivered Kim Jong-un’s wish to visit China during his talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao last month.
The newspaper said that Hu appears to have welcomed Kim’s wish to visit China.
The report came as the international community, including China, is pressuring Pyongyang not to conduct another nuclear test.
Speculation abounds that the North is ready for its third underground nuclear test to highlight its military might domestically, thus making up for last month’s botched rocket launch and raise its bargaining power with the West.
The Japanese media outlet noted that through summit talks with the Chinese leadership, Kim, the ruling party’s first secretary, seeks to strengthen a channel of dialogue with Beijing, which prepares for its power handover later this year.
It also pointed out that as Kim has established considerable power in domestic politics, he appears to be ready to push for diplomatic initiatives starting from China.
Chinese sources cited in the paper said that should Kim visit China, the Chinese leadership would call on him to refrain from taking hard-line military stances and focus on improving the livelihoods of ordinary citizens through economic reform.
Another source said that Pyongyang has already conveyed its intention not to carry out another nuclear test in the immediate future.
Amid reports of the North’s imminent nuclear test, analysts have said that whether to make another military provocative move would be a tough political decision for Pyongyang.
Experts say that should it conduct another nuclear test, Pyongyang would face deeper isolation and tougher sanctions not only from its political foes, but also its biggest sponsor China.
The North has yet to explicitly announce its plans for the test, even though it announced its plans before its tests in 2006 and 2009, in apparent efforts to ease international criticism.
By Song Sang-ho (firstname.lastname@example.org)