NK leader ready for China trip: report
By Kim Young-jin
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has expressed his intent to visit Beijing later this year in what would be a highly symbolic trip to his country’s most important ally, a Japanese report said Sunday.
According to the Nihon Keizai newspaper, the message was conveyed to Chinese President Hu Jintao by Kim Yong-il, a North Korean Worker’s Party official dealing with international relations, during a trip to Beijing in April.
Speculation has been high about a possible China trip by the inexperienced Kim since the death of his father Kim Jong-il in December.
The regime last month elevated Kim to first general secretary of the ruling party and first chairman of the country’s powerful National Defense Commission, formalizing his leadership.
Analysts had said the twenty-something still needed to take the key leadership posts before taking his first trip abroad as leader.
The trip comes as Pyongyang grows increasingly isolated from the outside world following its long-range rocket launch last month, which the international community deplored as an illicit ballistic missile test.
Hu welcomed the visit but wanted to express his wish that that Pyongyang refrain from a third nuclear test, the report said. Recent satellite imagery suggests preparations for such a test, however, may be underway.
Analysts expect China, already the North’s major source of trade and aid, to boost cooperation in a bid to steady Kim’s hand. Beijing is said to be highly concerned about potential instability at its borders.
Kim Jong-il made multiple visits to China in recent years, seen as efforts to gain support amid Pyongyang’s growing isolation over its nuclear program.