Kim’s son likely to make high-profile visit to China

Jong Un set to meet Xi Jinping, Hu's presumptive successor, in March

by Alex Martin

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s son and the hermit nation’s heir apparent, Kim Jong Un, will probably visit China immediately following the National People’s Congress in Beijing on March 14, according to a document recently seen by The Japan Times.

The report said Kim Jong Un’s visit is timed so he can meet with China’s current and next-generation leaders, including Xi Jinping, the presumptive successor to President Hu Jintao.

If this date has to be postponed for some reason, his visit will take place after the April 15 birthday celebrations of North Korea’s founding father, Kim Il Sung, and immediately following the visits of high-ranking Chinese officials to Pyongyang, according to the document Kansai University economics professor Lee Young Hwa obtained from a well-informed Chinese source.

The report said China regards stability in its border-sharing hermit state a priority and has been concerned of potential unrest caused by Kim Jong Il’s reported illness.

It said Beijing has been feeling a strong need to support Kim Jong Un’s succession and cement ties with his incoming regime, and planned to use his visit as an opportunity to showcase China’s support of Pyongyang’s next leader.

The document further said the visit was a bid to demonstrate that the future North Korean and Chinese leaders, particularly Kim Jong Un and Xi Jinping, will share information and cooperate before the 2012 presidential elections in the U.S., South Korea and Russia.

Lee of Kansai University said Kim Jong Un’s visit could also be viewed as China and North Korea’s attempt to rebuild their military and political alliance in the face of the democracy wave that has been sweeping the Middle East.

“Beijing is wary of its people staging their own ‘Jasmine Revolution,’ but considering the political instability created by Kim Jong Il’s deteriorating health and the economic crisis, North Korea is the most likely nation where a North Eastern Asian version of a Jasmine revolt could take place,” Lee said.

“And from that perspective, China is trying strengthen and support Pyongyang’s new leader. The North in turn wants to use China’s backing to legitimize Kim Jong Un’s succession, which has not been welcomed by its people.”

Lee noted the failure in military talks between North and South Korea in early February, a first of its kind after the North’s deadly shelling of South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island in November, stemmed from Kim Jong Un’s planned China trip.