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Is Kim Jong Il Avoiding Visiting Chinese Official?

Posted February. 09, 2010 07:53,   


North Korean leader Kim Jong Il could be avoiding talking to Chinese envoy Wang Jiarui, who arrived in Pyongyang for a three-day visit Saturday.

No confirmation came late yesterday afternoon that Wang, director of the international liaison department of the central committee of the Chinese Communist Party, held talks with Kim.

North Korean media said after midnight yesterday that Kim visited a company in Hamhung, South Hamkyong Province. The report failed to mention when he went to the city.

Considering that North Korea’s media usually reports on Kim a day after his activities, chances are high that he visited Sunday. It takes about five hours to drive from Pyongyang to Hamhung.

As such, this might have prevented Kim and Wang from holding the meeting they were expected to hold yesterday. The Chinese official is scheduled to return home today.

Kim’s apparent avoidance of Wang could be a sign of North Korea’s dilemma. If the two men hold a meeting, Kim will likely face pressure to make positive comments on Pyongyang’s return to the six-way nuclear talks without preconditions. If North Korea rejects the meeting, it could anger China and further burden the North Korean economy.

Analysts say the primary purpose of Wang’s visit is to urge Pyongyang to return to the six-way talks. So Kim might have intentionally stayed away from Wang to avoid giving a clear-cut answer on a return to dialogue.

Kim told Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao in Pyongyang in October last year that North Korea is “willing to participate in multilateral talks, including the six-way talks, depending on the progress in negotiations with the U.S.”

By not speaking to Wang, Kim might have also sought to send an indirect message that Washington needs to make a major decision and bigger concession. He could be expecting the U.S. hints at discussion over a peace regime and the lifting of U.N. sanctions against North Korea as proposed by Pyongyang in return for its resumption of the six-way talks.

Nevertheless, a late-night surprise meeting between Kim and Wang cannot be ruled out. Wang is a member of the Beijing power elite who has spoken to Kim in four previous visits to North Korea since January 2004.

If Kim does indeed see Wang, it could imply that Pyongyang desperately needs Beijing’s assistance to sustain its shaky economy.