North Korean Ruler Vows to Maintain Close Ties With China

North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un this week told a visiting senior Chinese official that he planned to continue his late father’s policy of maintaining close bilateral ties and that he would prioritize his country’s economic development, Reuters reported (see GSN, Aug. 1).

As international sanctions against Pyongyang have tightened over the years in response to its continuing ballistic missile and nuclear weapons development, the Stalinist regime has increasingly relied on economic support from Beijing. Any loss of Chinese backing could result in the swift implosion of the long-ruling Kim dynasty.

International observers have wondered how much North Korea-China relations were be strained by Pyongyang’s April decision to carry out a long-range rocket launch against the express desires of Beijing. However, remarks by Kim Jong Un to Chinese Communist Party International Liaison Department chief Wang Jiarui did not indicate much sunlight between the two countries.

“It is the unswerving will of the North Korean (ruling) party and government to continue [deceased ruler] comrade Kim Jong Il’s teachings of constantly deepening the traditional friendship between North Korea and China across the generations,” the Xinhua News Agency quoted Kim as telling Wang.

Beijing is the organizer of a long-stalled six-nation process aimed at permanently shuttering North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. The other participants in the aid-for-denuclearization negotiations are Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States. Talks were last held in December 2008 (Buckley/Park, Reuters, Aug. 3).

Meanwhile, there are indications that Kim has given orders for several military force repositionings, the Yonhap News Agency reported, citing sources familiar with the latest South Korean intelligence.

The redeployments are understood to include the fielding of additional fighter helicopters close to the Yellow Sea maritime boundary with South Korea.

“Intelligence authorities detected circumstances that the North Korean military is realigning some of its units, including air and artillery units,” the unidentified source said.

“The judgment of intelligence authorities is that the realignment is highly likely to be ordered by Kim Jong Un,” the insider said, continuing that South Korean intelligence agents are “keeping a close watch on movements by some special warfare and tank units” (Yonhap News Agency, Aug. 3).