Facing Food Shortages and Sanctions, Kim Jong Il Appears to Reach Out to China

North Korean leader is seeking investment from China as he prepares to hand over power to his 27-year-old son, Kim Jong Eun. From the Washington Post:

Kim may soon travel to China, according to the office of South Korea’s president and U.S. officials. They cited preparations that appear to be underway in the Chinese border city of Dandong and in Beijing. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Thursday it does not have information on whether Kim will visit China.

The potential trip could help restart six-party talks, hosted by China, aimed at persuading to denuclearize in return for economic and political benefits.

Kim is also attempting to accelerate Chinese investment and has ordered the creation of a State Development Bank. Officials from the new bank told a South Korean professor last week that they intend to allow the construction of foreign-owned factories in major North Korean cities. This would allow Chinese firms, many of which are running short of low-cost factory workers, access to North Korea’s pool of low-wage laborers.

If the investments move forward, they would represent a major policy reversal by the government. For six decades, North Korea has sealed almost all its citizens off from the “poisons” of capitalism.

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