Kim’s trip to China appears delayed

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Kim’s trip to China appears delayed

BEIJING - North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s much-anticipated trip to China may be delayed until late April, sources here said yesterday.

“There is a possibility that Kim may delay his visit to sometime later in April as Chinese President Hu Jintao will visit Washington to attend the nuclear security summit and tour three South American nations, including Brazil,” the source said. “Kim’s trip will likely take place sometime after April 18 when Hu finishes his overseas trips.”

The Chinese government may also have been reluctant to meet with Kim at this particularly sensitive time, according to an informed source.

“There was no clear conclusion whether the North was directly or indirectly involved in the recent sinking of the South Korean Navy ship Cheonan, or not involved at all,” the source said. “In such sensitive circumstances, the Chinese leadership would have to consider how the summit would appear to others.”

A source in the Chinese city of Dandong on the North Korean border said Kim’s special train had not reached the area as of yesterday.

“The North’s Supreme People’s Assembly will open a session on Friday, and at least two nights and three days are required for a visit to China,” the source said. “Taking into account the Chinese leadership’s scheduled activities at home and abroad, early Tuesday morning will be the Maginot Line for Kim to push forward his trip.”

Speculation about Kim’s trip to China reached a peak last week when the Blue House said there was a probability he was about to embark for Beijing. A senior U.S. official has also said that preparations for Kim’s trip had been detected at the China-North Korea border. In his meeting with journalists at an airport on the outskirts of Washington on Saturday evening, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell spoke about signals of a Kim trip, Japanese media reported yesterday. He told reporters it was unclear if Kim would actually embark on the visit.

Campbell was in Seoul on Friday, meeting with senior officials in charge of efforts to end North Korea’s nuclear programs. During his meeting with Korean journalists, Campbell expressed hope that any trip by Kim to China will lead to the resumption of the six-party nuclear talks that have been stalled for more than a year.

By Chang Se-jung, Ser Myo-ja []
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