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NK Leader`s China Visit Creates Security Flux

Posted May. 04, 2010 10:58,   


The security situation on the Korean Peninsula is undergoing fluctuations in the wake of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s reported arrival in China Monday.

His visit came just three days after a summit between South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Chinese President Hu Jintao in Shanghai in what has turned into a diplomatic battle being waged between the Koreas.

Kim is expected to discuss with Beijing important issues related to security on the Korean Peninsula, such as the North’s return to the six-party nuclear talks and the succession of his third son Kim Jong Un.

Beijing reportedly did not inform Seoul of Kim’s visit. On if anything was mentioned on the visit in the Lee-Hu summit three days ago, a high-ranking South Korean official said, “China had no obligation to do that. Our government detected the possibility of Kim visiting China and paid attention to that.”

Leading politicians in the South are worried and disgruntled over China’s acceptance of Kim’s visit. At a time when no results on the probe into the Cheonan sinking have come out, China is apparently helping the North return to the global stage.

In Seoul, ruling Grand National Party Chairman Chung Mong-joon told a meeting of the party’s senior council, “It is disappointing and worrisome that China accepted Kim’s visit. The Chinese leadership must deliver our people’s anger over the Cheonan incident.”

A high-ranking aide in the diplomatic and security section of the South Korean presidential office said, “As long as we’ve made clear our stance through various channels, including the previous summit with China, China can hopefully take that into consideration and respond (well) when it has a meeting with North Korea.”

A train believed to have been carrying Kim entered China on the Sino-North Korean Friendship Bridge (Yalu River Bridge) in the Chinese border city of Dandong at 5:20 a.m. Monday.

The 17-car train stopped to change wheels at Dandong rail station, then headed for Dalian. Kim’s visit to Dalian seems related to the North’s construction of the port of Rajin because Dalian is a port city with many shipbuilders.

Kim is known to have held a meeting with leading Chinese officials in Beijing after visiting Dalian.

An hour before the train came, 30 vans and sedans crossed the bridge from Shinuiju to Dandong at 4 a.m. The bridge and Dandong station were heavily guarded by some 200 policemen and soldiers at an interval of two to three meters. A special alert was lifted after the train left for Dandong.

Kim’s visit to China is his fifth since he took power in 1998 and first since January 2006. Considering President Hu’s upcoming visit to Russia Saturday and Kim’s health, the North Korean leader is expected to spend three nights and four days in China.

A source from the South Korean government said whether Kim’s heir apparent Kim Jong Un accompanied his father is unknown, but another source knowledgeable in North Korean affairs said, “Kim Jong Un is with him, and Kim Jong Il’s handover of power to his son is a major purpose of this visit.”

yongari@donga.com mungchii@donga.com