North Korea's Leader Said To Be In China
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
It is a poorly guarded secret that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il is visiting China. The trip comes as relations between North and South Korea are tense and the North's economy is in tatters. NPR's Anthony Kuhn has more from Beijing.
ANTHONY KUHN: But Daniel Pinkston, a Seoul-based analyst with the International Crisis Group, notes that Kim's visit comes amid rising suspicions that North Korea is behind the sinking of a South Korean Navy ship called the Cheonan in March.
DANIEL PINKSTON: I know the Chinese have put a lot of work into making a six party talks meeting take place, but of course the Cheonan incident is lurking in the background. And until the South Koreans finish their investigation and feel like sitting down, I think it's going to take a little bit of time.
KUHN: Dalian's bustling ports and industrial parks are just the sort of places China has shown Kim in the past - to prod him towards reforming his country's stagnant economy. Pinkston says tense relations with South Korea could strengthen China's position as North Korea's economic patron.
PINKSTON: With economic ties with the South being reduced, severed, or reversed, North Korea has been looking to China more and more for economic cooperation. We've seen a number of concessionary deals with the Chinese where they've been granted access to ports or mining facilities, department stores, things like that.
KUHN: Many observers are looking to see whether Kim Jong-Il brought his son and heir-apparent Kim Jong-Un along on the trip. Lu Chao, director of the Borders Studies Institute at the Liaoning Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, says that in any event China can't appear to be meddling in its neighbors' domestic politics.
LU CHAO: (Through translator) China cannot interfere in the selection of a successor. If the North Koreans have selected a successor and they inform China of it, then that's normal. But as for talk of the North Koreans seeking China's opinion and assistance, I think that's impossible.
KUHN: Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Beijing.
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