Kim Jong Il Might Postpone Visit to China

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il might postpone his widely rumored visit to China until after Chinese President Hu Jintao returns from a trip to the Americas in two weeks, the Associate Press reported today (see GSN, April 2).

It is believed that Kim would use a visit to Beijing to declare that North Korea is finally returning to stalled nuclear negotiations with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States. The office of South Korea’s president said recently that there was a good chance that such a trip was planned.

Relying on an anonymous Beijing-based source, the Joong Ang Ilbo newspaper said the reclusive Kim might wait until April 18 has passed. At that point, Hu would have returned after participating in next week’s Global Nuclear Security Summit in Washington and then traveling to South America (Kwang-Tae Kim, Associated Press I/Taiwan News, April 6).

The meeting could occur close to April 25, AP reported.

It has been about a year since Pyongyang said it was quitting the years-old diplomatic effort. The North had taken some steps toward shuttering its nuclear operations in exchange for energy aid and additional incentives from the other nations. However, the process stalled again in December 2008 and North Korea conducted its second nuclear test in May of last year (Kwang-Tae Kim, Associated Press II/Yahoo!News, April 6).

Meanwhile, the U.S. commander of U.S. forces on the Korean Peninsula said today he was convinced that a joint South Korean-U.S. investigation would reveal the cause of the sinking late last month of a South Korean naval patrol boat near a contested border with the North, AP reported.

“I’m confident that we will find out,” Gen. Walter Sharp said at a meeting in Seoul. “We want to get to the right answer, the correct answer and we don’t want to rush to that conclusion.”

There have been occasional military flareups between the North and South since the 1953 signing of an armistice agreement that ended the Korean War (Hyung-Jin Kim, Associated Press III/Google News, April 6).

Elsewhere, Seoul announced yesterday that South Korean President Lee Myung-bak would participate in next week’s nuclear summit, where he is expected to call for a speedy resolution to the North Korean nuclear impasse, the Yonhap News Agency reported.

“Through discussions on the prevention of nuclear materials at this summit, President Lee plans to proclaim South Korea’s will to expand its contributions to global nuclear security and emphasize the importance of an early resolution to the North Korean nuclear issue,” presidential spokeswoman Kim Eun-hye said (Lee Chi-dong, Yonhap News Agency, April 5).