North Korean leader Kim Jong-un wants to make a state visit to China in the latest move in his push to lift the isolated state out of decades of poverty, but risks further fraying ties with his only ally by sticking to the threat of a new nuclear test.
It is not clear whether China will be prepared to host him next month when Beijing will be preoccupied with its own leadership change. Beijing may also have its doubts about the unproven Kim Jong-un, who after only four months in office defied his giant neighbor by conducting a long-range rocket test.
A source with ties to both Pyongyang and Beijing said yesterday that Kim’s uncle, Jang Song-thaek, effectively the second-most-powerful figure in North Korea, had asked for the visit when he met Chinese leaders in Beijing last week.
China will expect to extract a price from Kim and will want the North to commit to return to the so-called Six Party talks with regional powers aimed at defusing the nuclear threat on the Korean Peninsula, said Yoo Ho-yeol, professor of North Korean studies at Korea University in Seoul.
The source who disclosed Kim’s request for a visit said that the North retained the capacity to carry out another test.
“North Korea wants a permanent peace treaty to replace the armistice in exchange for dropping plans for a third nuclear test. It’s been 60 years and time to [formally] end the war with a peace treaty,” the source added.
A formal peace treaty to end the 1950-1953 Korean War has been a longstanding demand from Pyongyang.