[EDITORIALS]Mr. Kim’s trek to China

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[EDITORIALS]Mr. Kim’s trek to China

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il finished his unofficial eight-day visit to China and returned home. The visit, under tight security, came when the North’s image as a bad country in the international community has only been strengthened by the prolonged nuclear crisis and counterfeit money issue.
In the 21st century, a digital age where spy satellites and other high-tech gear are closely monitoring every step of Mr. Kim, the hush-hush trip was ludicrous. What lies at the heart of the question is whether his visit can achieve real diplomatic results so that the mistrust of the North’s regime by the international community and its image as a bad country, can be wiped away.
During his eight days in China Mr. Kim focused his journey on visiting symbolic cities there that represent the country’s reform measures. The cities that he toured are on the same route that the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping traveled in 1992. Key members of the North Korean military and hard-line figures accompanied Mr. Kim during the trip, so there is speculation that the North might be in the final stages of announcing reform measures similar to China’s.
There was also the news that in a summit meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao, economic support for the North and the solution to the counterfeit money issue were discussed, and that, at the urging of the Chinese president and a guarantee on economic support, the North would eventually return to the six-party talks.
The crisis that the North is facing stems from a lack of production in its economy, mistrust by the international community due to the North’s nuclear development program and too much emphasis on the military-first policy that has resulted in a hidebound military that has grown too big. Nevertheless, these issues can be resolved for the most part through internal reforms and the willingness to carry them out.
For the North to maintain its system and revive its economy, there is no other method but to make peace with the international community by returning quickly to the six-party talks, while pushing for reforms that can attract foreign investment.
As part of a short-term solution, pursuing a policy of leaning on China for support could be an obstacle to North Korea’s independence and reforms in the longer term, if that reliance on China grows too heavy and the pace of change is too fast. Let’s hope that the visit by Mr. Kim becomes a catalyst for reconciliation between the North and the international community.
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