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China Refuses Comment On North Korean Leader's Visit

In what has become common practice when it comes to North Korea, the Chinese government refuses to comment on reports that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is on his way to China, in what would be his second visit this year.

As in the past, the Foreign Ministry had no immediate response to reports that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is visiting China. And officials at the North Korean embassy said they had no information.

During Mr. Kim's trip to China in May, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu dodged questions about the visit, which was only formally announced after it was over.

She stopped short of confirming his presence, but said high-level visits are determined by consultation between Beijing and Pyongyang.

Jiang says that every country makes what she describes as "appropriate arrangements according to the actual situation" of each visit.

China is North Korea's biggest supporter and source of aid. Some North Korea scholars think Mr. Kim may seek Beijing's approval of plans for his son to eventually succeed him. But there is speculation that Mr. Kim wants more help for his impoverished nation.

Official North Korean media say Chinese President Hu Jintao sent a message of sympathy to North Korea because of recent flood losses. A separate report says China will provide aid to help North Korea recover from the floods.

Shi Yinhong, international relations professor at Renmin University, says he thinks the Chinese government is ready to provide some assistance to North Korea.

At the same time, Shi says Beijing will not satisfy all of Pyongyang's requests. Specifically, he says China will refuse what he described as North Korea's "excessive demands" for things such as military assistance.

There also are reports that Mr. Kim is bringing his son and heir apparent, Kim Jong Un, with him to meet Chinese officials. Shi says if these reports are true, it would show that Mr. Kim is "determined to let his successor succeed."

Shi says the Chinese government does not have a say in who is going to inherit power in North Korea, and so will not publicize its views on the matter.

Reports that Mr. Kim is in China coincide with former President Jimmy Carter's visit to North Korea to seek the release of an American imprisoned there.

Shi says the coincidence of these events could mean there is a chance that stalled talks on ending North Korea's nuclear weapons programs could resume. China has been the host of the discussions, which also include the United States, North Korea, South Korea, Japan and Russia.