Where is N.Korea's Kim? Is he in China? Or in Russia? Did he fly?
Posted On January 11, 2006
The plot thickens further…is Kim Jong Il anywhere?
Where is N.Korea’s Kim? Officials hunt for clues – Yahoo! News UK
SEOUL/BEIJING (Reuters) – North Korea’s Kim Jong-il entered China for a rare overseas trip, but a day after the media reports first emerged mystery remained over the secretive communist leader’s agenda and even his mode of transport.
Kim entered China two days ago on a direct flight to Shanghai, the South’s Yonhap news reported on Wednesday, in what may be his first overseas plane trip. Other reports
had said he had entered China on board his armoured train on Tuesday.
North Korean propaganda lists among Kim’s many achievements that he is a skilled fighter jet pilot. But he has never been known to travel by plane.
Media reports and diplomats say Kim — like his late father, state founder Kim Il-sung — has an aversion to flying and has almost always travelled by train under tight secrecy on his rare visits abroad.
There were also conflicting reports as to where Kim was headed. One source in Beijing familiar with his movements had said Kim was on his way to Russia, while Yonhap, citing diplomatic sources, said he would stay in China’s business hub.
Kim visited Shanghai on all his three previous trips to China, touring a General Motors plant and shopping on a popular commercial street in his last stop-over in 2004.
Yonhap said Kim was expected to have a three-day stay in Shanghai — China’s main showcase for the kind of market-oriented economic reforms with which he has so far just tinkered.
Russian and Chinese Foreign Ministry officials declined to comment on his whereabouts, and South Korean officials said they were struggling to confirm various reports.
His 2004 trip to China, Pyongyang’s main ally and source of aid, was not officially confirmed until he had returned home. His trip to Moscow in 2001 involved 24 days of travelling as he dined on delicacies and followed news using special communications.
It was not clear what had prompted Kim to travel now.
If he is heading for Russia, he could be seeking again to balance the North’s relations between Beijing and Russia, which under President Vladimir Putin has been more friendly towards the North than it was during the immediate post-communist years.
If Kim is stopping in China, he is likely to be studying economic reforms, seeking more aid and also support amid his standoff with Washington over his nuclear deterrent and U.S. sanctions, according to diplomats and North Korea experts.
The Korea Times newspaper said a China trip would most probably be linked to U.S. financial sanctions.
Washington has cracked down on firms suspected of involvement in counterfeiting, money laundering and the drug trade by the North, which it says funds the North’s nuclear programmes.
“Which side China will take is a critical factor for Kim,” the Korea Times quoted Baek Seung-joo of the Korea Institute for Defence Analyses as saying.
Whether to Russia or China, Kim’s trip would come as regional powers seek to nudge the North back into talks on its nuclear ambitions.
Chinese President Hu Jintao visited North Korea in October on a trip that was seen as underscoring Beijing’s role in persuading Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons programmes.
China has hosted several rounds of talks by six countries — the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States — aimed at dismantling the North’s nuclear weapons.
(Additional reporting by Rhee So-eui and Yoo Choonsik)