By Kim Se-jeong
One reason Kim Jong-il’s alleged trip to China has raised so many eyebrows is Jimmy Carter, the former U.S. president is currently visiting North Korea on a mercy mission to free an American citizen. He arrived Wednesday evening.
Many expected that Carter and Kim would meet on Thursday, but that seems not to have happened.
Some claim that the two already met Wednesday evening before Kim’s departure, but that also seems unlikely.
No other video footage or reports have been released from North Korea’s state owned media, except that which showed pictures of Carter’s arrival and the reception by Kim Yong-nam, one of the regime’s top leaders, at the airport.
Thursday’s announcement by the former U.S. president that he would extend his stay for another day is interpreted to mean that he hasn’t met Kim, and he would wait for him to return from China. Given the railway route and the time to travel between Pyongyang and Beijing, it is probable that Kim would be able to make it back home by Friday. A one-way rail trip between Beijing and Pyongyang takes 26 hours.
What is certain is that Carter’s visit won’t be dealt with as much gravity and attention as perhaps he himself or the U.S. would have hoped.
Although the U.S. State Department undermined the significance of the trip, calling it a “private humanitarian” one to release Aijalon Gomes, an American citizen, who was sentenced to eight years hard labor and fined $700,000 for entering the country illegally, it was still highly speculated that his trip would have a thawing effect on the Korean Peninsula amid the current tension freeze.
The tension peaked when the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan was sunk by a North Korean torpedo in late March. North Korea is denying the allegation.
In response, Seoul suspended most of its inter-Korean economic trade, and is boycotting the resumption of the six-party talks, a dialogue in pursuit of the denuclearization of North Korea.
The resumption of the six-party talks has seen development in August, as China’s chief nuclear envoy Wu Dawei visited Pyongyang last week.
Wu and his North Korean counterpart agreed on restarting the denuclearization talks during the meeting.
“The two sides had an in-depth discussion on the regional situation and the bilateral relations of friendship and matters of mutual concern including the resumption of the six-party talks and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” the Korean Central News Agency said.
He is due to arrive in Seoul Thursday evening for discussions.