Reform is the answer, Mr. Kim

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Reform is the answer, Mr. Kim

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s suspicious visit to China has entered its fifth day. He has traveled to many places as if he were on a tight tour schedule. After setting foot in Heilongjiang Province early last Friday, he toured some “historic sites” his father Kim Il Sung had visited and immediately moved on to Changchun, the capital of Jilin Province, to visit FAW Group, China’s second-largest automaker. He next went to Yangzhou, Jiangsu Province, after a 30-hour ride.

Yangzhou is the birth place of former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin, who welcomed Kim Il Sung to the beautiful city in 1991. But Kim Jong-il only visited a local shopping center and a photovoltaic-system builder in the city. The ultimate goal of his visit there was to meet with Jiang. Though it’s unclear how many places he will visit now, it’s still hard to define the real purpose of his latest visit to China - even at this point.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told President Lee Myung-bak that China had invited Kim to provide him with another opportunity to see China’s remarkable economic success so that North Korea could gain ideas about its own development. But Kim’s visit didn’t have an economic purpose and was likely aimed at meeting with Jiang to solidify China’s support for a power transfer to his son Kim Jong-un. Kim wanted to appease China’s uneasiness with the power succession by securing Jiang’s support, given his enormous clout in Chinese politics as the kingpin of the Shanghai faction.

Particularly noteworthy is Kim’s attempt to flaunt his solid ties with China. He seems to want to tacitly remind China’s current leadership of their solidarity and call on them to fulfill their obligation as a big brother. That’s in sharp contrast with the Chinese government’s purpose of inviting Kim: to stress economic reform.

There is a huge gap between China, which has emerged as an economic powerhouse, and North Korea, which struggles to cling to a freakish system of hereditary rule. Chinese citizens increasingly express their cynicism about the regime.

Kim’s latest visit to China will hardly accomplish successful results if he wants to gain China’s support for the power succession and the country’s socialist economy.

We hope Kim’s son will be able to launch a reform drive as soon as possible. As seen already, North Korea has been a burdensome entity to China. It’s time for the North to make a drastic decision, before it’s too late.

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