Did Kim Jong Un’s uncle prepare his first state visit to China?

[The following two news items strike us as being related. First a high-level visit to China by the assumed power behind the throne, Kim Jong Un’s uncle Jang Song Thaek. The first article is by Didi Tang for The Associated Press, published 17 August 2012. The second is the widely expected but unconfirmed request for the first external state visit and first official visit to China by Kim Jong Un, in his capacity as DPRK leader. The Reuters article appeared in guardian.co.uk on 24 August 2012. –CanKor]

Wen Jiabao, right, meets Jang Song-thaek, uncle of North Korea’s new leader Kim Jong-un, on Aug. 17. (Photo/Xinhua)

Senior North Korean holds talks with China’s leaders in sign allies’ relations back on track

Associated Press, BEIJING, China – The powerful uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met both China’s president and premier on Friday in a sign that relations between the two countries are back on track after Kim irked Beijing with a rocket launch soon after taking power.

State media have said the six-day visit to China by Jang Song Thaek, the chief of the central administrative department of the Workers’ Party of Korea, is a possible prelude to a visit by Kim himself. China remains North Korea’s most important ally.

The top-level meetings came after Beijing earlier this week agreed to help Pyongyang revamp two trade zones near the Chinese border.

Since he became North Korea’s top leader following his father’s death in December, Kim has promoted younger economists to key party positions to help revive his country’s economy. North Korea has lagged economically far behind the rest of Northeast Asia, and much of the nation is impoverished outside the capital, Pyongyang.

Beijing also wants to see bolder economic reforms under the young Kim to lessen North Korea’s reliance on hand-outs.

A few months ago, relations between the two allies were strained. North Korea drew strenuous objections from China, the United States, Japan and others by testing a rocket in April because they feared it would add to tensions on the Korean Peninsula between the North and the South. Analysts said North Korea did not give Beijing advance notice of the launch, which particularly irked them.

Jang is a vice chairman of the powerful National Defence Commission. He also is seen as a leading economic policy official.

His meetings with President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing came toward the end of his visit. Hu praised Jang for his “huge amount of work for the friendly relations between China and North Korea as two neighbouring countries,” the official China News Service reported.

Wen told Jang that the China-North Korea friendship has endured historical tests and is a shared treasure to be “doubly cherished.” He said Jang’s visit will deepen the relations between the two ruling parties and the two nations, according to CNS.

Jang met Chinese commerce ministry officials earlier this week to discuss the development of two special economic zones in North Korea.

The ministry said the two sides signed a number of co-operation agreements to further develop the zones — Rason on the Korean Peninsula’s northern tip, and Hwanggumphyong, an island in the Yalu River that marks their border to the southwest.

Rason would be developed into a manufacturing base, logistics centre and tourism hub, and the Hwanggumphyong zone would focus on information technology, tourism, agriculture and garment manufacturing, it said.

Rason has recently begun to develop thanks to Chinese infrastructure projects, but Hwanggumphyong has languished since ground was broken last year.

On Thursday, Jang met with Wang Jiarui, the head of the international department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee. Wang said China is committed to strengthening and developing the friendly and co-operative relations between the countries, and Jang said Pyongyang wants to see the friendship strengthen, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

North Korea’s Kim Jong-un ‘seeks China talks’

Kim Jong-un: the Beijing trip would follow the recent high-profile visit by the North Korean leader’s uncle, Jang Song-thaek. (Photo by Kns/AFP/Getty Images)

Reuters, BEIJING, China – Trip to Beijing to meet Chinese leaders would be North Korean leader’s first visit abroad after death of his father, Kim Jong-il.

The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, is seeking an ice-breaking trip to key ally Beijing next month to meet China’s outgoing and new leaders, according to a source with ties to both countries.

It would be Kim’s first trip abroad since he assumed power after the death of his father, Kim Jong-il, in December. It follows the recent high-profile visit to Beijing by Kim’s uncle, Jang Song-thaek, who is effectively the second most powerful figure in North Korea.

“It will be a get-to-know-you trip,” the source told Reuters. The source has correctly predicted events in the past, including the country’s first nuclear test in 2006and Jang’s ascension.

“It will be a state visit. This was one of the most important missions of Jang Song-thaek’s visit,” said the source, who has direct knowledge of the request.

The source said Pyongyang was likely to repeat its threat to carry out a third nuclear test unless Washington and Seoul agree to its longstanding demand to sign a permanent peace treaty to replace the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean war.

“There is no doubt North Korea has the capability [for a third nuclear test], but China is strongly opposed to it,” the source said.

“North Korea wants a permanent peace treaty to replace the armistice in exchange for dropping plans for a third nuclear test. It’s been 60 years and it is time to [formally] end the war with a peace treaty,” the source added.

The Chinese foreign ministry declined to comment.

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