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Kim Jong Il`s China Trip Steals Fire From Carter`s Visit

Kim Jong Il`s China Trip Steals Fire From Carter`s Visit

Posted August. 27, 2010 12:42,   


Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is probably more embarrassed than anyone to learn of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s unexpected visit to China Thursday.

On a visit to the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, Carter had an itinerary that included a meeting and dinner with the North’s No. 2 man Kim Yong Nam. Carter arrived at Sunan Airport in Pyongyang Wednesday afternoon.

Kim Kye Kwan, the North’s chief negotiator to the six-party nuclear talks, received Carter at the airport and accompanied Kim Yong Nam at the dinner held at Baekhwawon State Guest House.

The North’s official news media said Carter did not have the chance to meet Kim Jong Il. The North Korean leader went to China on an exclusive train that crossed the Chinese border on his previous China visits, and will probably return in about a week.

Because of this, it was deemed virtually impossible for Carter to meet Kim Jong Il.

The main purpose of the former U.S. president’s visit was to gain the release of the detained American Aijalon Mahli Gomes. Carter, however, also spoke of a “grand vision” of bringing Pyongyang back to the negotiating table and tackling the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and regional peace through a meeting with Kim Jong Il.

Given the situation, Carter might very well feel embarrassed and disappointed.

Gomes’ release was virtually a done deal even before Carter’s visit. As such, Carter could be seen as returning home empty handed.

Park Han-sik, an international affairs professor at the University of Georgia who arranged Carter’s visit, said Wednesday, “Former President Carter has sought a North Korea visit since tension heightened on the Korean Peninsula due to the Cheonan sinking, and flew to Pyongyang under the condition of holding a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il,” indicating that such an encounter was assured.

If no meeting is held, this will probably perplex the Obama administration since it has repeatedly stressed that Carter made the visit for humanitarian purposes in his capacity as a private citizen. Since Washington permitted the trip despite the scheduled announcement of additional financial sanctions on Pyongyang, the U.S. probably feels dumbfounded over Kim’s unexpected trip.

Another possibility is that Carter already met Kim Jong Il. The North Korean leader’s latest China visit was made in secret and publicizing his visit is at the full discretion of the North Korean leadership. Thus Kim Jong Il might have held the meeting on the first day of Carter’s visit to Pyongyang and discussed the North’s relations with the U.S. and South Korea.

Kim Yong Nam might have also conveyed a message from Kim Jong Il by silently notifying Carter about the China visit out of respect for the former U.S. president.

Carter’s schedule in Pyongyang, which is unfolding in a complicated fashion, will likely be released only after Thursday (U.S. time), when he arrives in Washington.