North Korean leader Kim Jong Il
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il met Friday with Wang Jiarui, head of the Chinese Communist Party’s International Liaison Department, during the latter’s visit to North Korea, the Chinese government-run Xinhua News Agency reported in its Pyongyang news.
This is Kim’s first meeting with a foreign envoy since last September, when rumors of the North Korean leader’s ill health were presented. Some are interpreting the meeting as a kind of “political formality” demonstrating to people inside and outside the nation that Kim has recovered enough to normalize overseas activities. North Korea previously publicized photos of Kim engaged in public activity within North Korea, inspecting military units, farms and factories. Intelligence authorities have been predicting that Kim would opt for direct contact with the outside world, such as the greeting of a foreign guest, as the next step in demonstrating his health.
The news agency made no reference to the specific content of the discussions between Kim and Wang, but some are speculating that Wang likely communicated a New Year’s message to Kim from Chinese President Hu Jintao. The two nations have designated 2009, the 60th anniversary of their diplomatic relations, as their “Year of Friendship” and are preparing a variety of events. Arrangements may also have taken place for a visit to China by Kim or a visit to North Korea by Hu.
The fact that Kim met with a high-ranking Chinese official visiting North Korea immediately after the inauguration of United States President Barack Obama is also noteworthy. A source in Beijing said, “North Korea wants China’s cooperation in anticipation of dialogue with the United States, and it appears that China explained principles related to this.”
Wang also held an in-depth conversation lasting over three hours with former Unification Minister Kim Ha-joong during the latter’s visit to China late last year, meaning there is a possibility that Wang may have indirectly communicated Seoul’s intentions regarding inter-Korean dialogue.
North Korea declared Saturday in a statement made on behalf of the chief of the General Staff of the North Korean People’s Army that it would adopt an “all-out confrontational posture” toward South Korea.
Wang is an authority on North Korea who has met with Kim whenever there has been a “major issue,” including April 2004, when Kim visited China, and February 2005, when North Korea declared that it possessed nuclear capabilities. Wang arrived in North Korea on Wednesday and met Thursday with North Korea’s Premier, Kim Yong-il, and Choe Tae-bok, secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea.
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