Is Kim Jong-Un Planning His First Trip to China?

While China’s relationship with North Korea seems to be improving due to the hiring of North Korean guest workers, there is speculation Kim Jong-Un is planning his first visit to China. The Wall Street Journal reports that Minister of People’s Security Ri Myong Su visited China last week in possible preparation for Kim’s visit:

The North’s state news agency announced Mr. Ri’s visit with two, one-sentence dispatches – one last Tuesday saying he’d left for China and another on Saturday saying he’d returned.

On Sunday, China’s Xinhua news agency reported that Mr. Ri went to Jiangsu, the populous province just north of Shanghai that is the home of Nanjing and several other large cities. While there, Mr. Ri met with provincial officials as well as China’s minister of public security, Meng Jianzhu, triggering media speculation that Mr. Ri was discussing security arrangements for a visit by Mr. Kim.

Then on Monday, a delegation of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China arrived in Pyongyang. The North’s state news agency said they were hosted at a reception led by Kim Yong Il, one of the 11 secretaries of the North’s ruling Worker’s Party.

The North’s report said that Mr. Kim told the visiting Chinese delegation that former dictator Kim Jong Il visited China eight times and that the new leader Kim Jong Eun “is deeply interested in the development of friendly relations with China.”

There has also been speculation about why Kim is planning a visit, The Telegraph adds:

Sources say Kim may ask China for food aid. Floods last week killed 88 North Koreans and destroyed homes and crops, according to the country`s state news agency KCNA.

The US cancelled an aid agreement with North Korea in protest over the country`s long-range missile test in April. The US State Department says it is in close contact with China over the situation in North Korea.

“When he travels to China, Kim Jong-un will be following a path well trodden by his father and grandfather,” said Michael Breen, author of Kim Jong-il, North Korea`s Dear Leader.

“The trip serves two purposes: securing Chinese aid following the flooding in North Korea and, to strengthen confidence in his leadership in Pyongyang – not, as one might expect, by the show of support from China – but rather by the exhibition of that peculiar North Korean skill of appearing to permit foreign powers the privilege of donating.”

Despite the summit between China, Japan, and South Korea to discuss trade and North Korea earlier this year, China’s relationship with South Korea seems to be under pressure as China denies the south’s claims of Chinese baby flesh pills. Aside from these claims, AFP reports South Korean activists are seeking an investigation of torture allegations against China:

A South Korean rights group said on Monday it would ask the United Nations to investigate the alleged torture of a Seoul activist detained in China after helping North Korean refugees there.

Kim Young-Hwan and three other people were arrested on March 29 and accused of endangering Beijing’s national security.

After the group were deported on July 20, Kim claimed he had been physically abused by Chinese security authorities. He gave no details but his colleagues said he was subjected to electric shocks.

The activist Kim is the former leader of an underground leftist party who met the then-North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung in Pyongyang in 1991. He later became a fierce regime critic and now works for a Seoul-based rights group.

According to The New York Times, the activists being held by China were being held because of their attempts to help North Korean refugees:

“They put a cattle prod, wrapped in electric coils, inside my clothes and placed it on my chest and back,” Mr. Kim told Chosun Ilbo, a mass-circulation daily in South Korea. “It felt like being continuously electrocuted.

“I could smell my flesh burning,” he said. “They also threatened several times to send me to North Korea.”

Chinese officials frequently raise the possibility of being sent to North Korea when they interrogate South Korean activists for helping North Korean refugees in China, according to activists who say they were tortured in China.

Another activist, Chung Peter, told the same TV Chosun program that “sleep deprivation” and “letting you hear the sound of torture from the next room” were standard interrogation tactics when he was held in China for a year and a half starting in 2003 for helping North Korean refugees.

As the activists bring their case to the United Nations against China, Seoul is also hardening its position towards China in this dispute, according to The Korea Herald:

Cho Tae-young, a spokesperson for Seoul’s Foreign Ministry, said the government will “actively support” Kim if he takes the issue to multinational agencies. The ministry will also direct its consuls in China to interview all 625 Korean inmates in the country to investigate whether they were abused. Regarding China’s denial, Cho said Korea does not regard it as an official response. Seoul demanded China reinvestigate the alleged torture of Kim after he was deported. The government is still awaiting an “official answer” through their diplomatic channel, he added

“We have requested from the Chinese government a strict reinvestigation, apology, punishment for those responsible and measures to prevent future abuses. And we will continuously raise the issue (until China responds),” spokesperson Cho told a news briefing.

South Korean ambassador to China Lee Kyu-hyung has asked for a meeting with a senior government official to explain Seoul’s position and the need for stringent fact finding, Cho said.

The Committee for the Release of North Korean Human Rights Activist Kim Young Hwan said last week that it filed requests in May and plans an additional appeal for an investigation into Kim’s confinement with the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, and the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in Geneva.