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Trip Secrecy May Be Bomb-Fear Related

Posted January. 12, 2006 03:01,   


North Korean leader Kim Jong Il arrived Shanghai in China yesterday and toured the city’s industrial facilities, according to news reports.

“Kim inspected cutting-edge industrial facilities in Pudong,” said an observer in Shanghai. “Kim will likely leave Shanghai for another area as early as on the same day.”

The South Korean Consulate General in Shanghai was unable to confirm this, however. “We asked public officials in charge of protocol affairs where Kim will be staying, and we checked the Immigration Bureau and all the major hotels where Kim might be expected to stay, but we have failed to find out where he will be staying,” the South Korean Consulate General spokesperson said. “We are just checking whether Kim is staying in Shanghai.” Kim reportedly arrived in Shanghai aboard a special train yesterday morning.

No Traces of Kim-

“This is a really top-secret visit to China. No traces of Kim in China have been found,” a South Korean Embassy official in Beijing said. “This visit is being conducted in a more clandestine manner than ones in the past.”

Kim’s visit to China in April 2004 was also top-secret. At the time, however, the press reported bustling activity at the North Korean Embassy and an array of cars taking North Korean visitors around the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse.

On top of that, when Kim paid a visit to Shanghai in January 2001, Kim’s footsteps, including a tour of the Pudong area, were traced by the press.

“The reason Kim’s visit to China has not been publicized at all is that the North and China are maintaining a more strict guard than they did before,” said a source in Beijing.

Why? There are working-level explanations.

China has cut the number of government departments and officials taking charge of Kim’s tour to China to a minimum. A certain number of officials with Chinese Foreign Ministry had taken part in preparations for Kim’s visits in the past, but this visit is being controlled solely by the Chinese Communist Party’s International Liaisons Department, excluding the Foreign Ministry completely.

However, Kim’s fear of a possible second Yongcheon explosion incident may be another reason for the enhanced secrecy surrounding his visit.

The Yongcheon Station explosion occurred right when Kim was going back to North Korea after completing his visit to China in 2004. The explosion took place just eight hours after the special train that Kim went aboard passed through Yongcheon Station. Because of this, speculation was rife that the incident was a premeditated attempt to kill Kim and not a mere accident.

Some say that Kim has been fearful of his safety ever since the issue of alleged North Korean counterfeiting of U.S. currency emerged.

U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Alexander Vershbow has warned the North and outspokenly called it a criminal regime, while Raphael Perl in charge of forged bill issues at the Congressional Research Service (CRS) said, “America’s will to attack the North was about a two on a scale of 1-10 as recently as five years ago, but it currently stands at around four. If this figure reaches six to seven, it will be difficult for the North to withstand America any further.”

These appear to be some of the reasons why Kim’s visit to China is top-secret.

Yoo-Seong Hwang yshwang@donga.com