China has reportedly demanded that North Korea pledge not to carry out a third nuclear test as a precondition to accepting the fledgling leader Kim Jong-un’s visit to Beijing.
Citing multiple sources, Japan’s daily Tokyo Shimbun reported Sunday that Beijing made the request when Kim Yong-il, the international affairs secretary of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, visited China from April 20-24.
While expressing opposition to the demand, Pyongyang tried to reach a compromise with its biggest patron and ally, saying that it would inform Beijing of its nuclear test plan far in advance, the daily said. The North took China by surprise as it gave short notice when it conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.
After the North failed to launch its long-range rocket in April, speculation grew that it would carry out a third nuclear test to save face and show off its military strength to the international community.
China has long called on the North to refrain from provocative behavior as world leaders have called on Beijing to use its leverage to influence the reclusive state.
Last Thursday, the North’s Foreign Minister Park Ui-chun repeated Pyongyang’s stance that it would continue its nuclear and missile programs, stressing that his country has the sovereign right to do so.
He made the comment while attending the annual ASEAN Regional Forum in Cambodia, which was hosted by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
A Seoul government official said that he was not informed of any deal between Pyongyang and Beijing, and that making such a deal is “not understandable.”
“Of course, China may expect that North Korea would stop additional provocations including the nuclear test, should he visit China. That is diplomatic common sense,” the official told media, declining to be named.
“(In my personal view), how Kim Jong-un can hold a summit right away when he did not ever meet any high-level Beijing officials? Another factor that could affect Kim’s visit to China would be the leadership handover in China slated for October.”
China had tried to reopen the multilateral aid-for-denuclearization talks involving the Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia. The North has also called for the resumption of the talks to address its international isolation and gain economic support from outside.
The mood for dialogue emerged on Feb. 29 when Pyongyang agreed with Washington to temporarily suspend its uranium enrichment at its main nuclear complex in Yongbyon and put a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests in return for 240,000 tons of “nutritional assistance.”
The mood was broken after the North fired a long range rocket, which it claimed was aimed at putting a research satellite into orbit. Experts said that the launch was to test the Taepodong-2 missile.
The longest-range North Korean missile under development is presumed to have a range of more than 6,700 km, enough to hit parts of Alaska, but still short of reaching the U.S. mainland. The missile’s tests have so far failed.
By Song Sang-ho (firstname.lastname@example.org)