Kim’s China trip may herald N Korea’s economic shift
BEIJING AS North Korean leader Kim Jong Il apparently spent his sixth day in China on Wednesday, many speculated about his activities and the purpose of another long, secretive trip to his nation’s only major ally.
At least two of Kim’s reported visits were to high technology manufacturers.
His latest look at China’s successful reforms has revived expectations that his return to Pyongyang could herald another step forward in North Korea’s progressive-regressive opening of its economy.
The world should not hold its breath in expectation of sweeping reforms, but three trips to China by Kim in 12 months look certain to yield a concrete shift in the direction of the Stalinist nation’s planned economy, said Jin Hualin, an expert on North Korea’s economy at Yanbian University.
“I think changes will definitely happen (in North Korea),” Jin told the German Press Agency dpa by telephone from Yanbian, a border area with strong links to North Korea.
“Because each of these three visits is one step in the procedure (of introducing reforms),” he said.
Jin said he believed the current visit was part of a “deep exchange” with China that could yield formal agreements following Kim’s expected talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao.
Kim reportedly studied the results of China’s 30 years of “reform and opening” on six previous known trips to China since 2000, including his two visits last year.
Regular visitors to North Korea have pointed to symbols of change, such as the nation’s first advertising hoardings and fast food restaurants, as well as the capital’s first traffic jam.
But North Korean leaders are apparently sensitive about the ideological underpinning of their tentative economic reforms.
Some Chinese analysts have argued that, since China began privatising its economy and allowing foreign trade and investment in the 1980s, the Korean Workers’ Party has seen China as “revisionist,” just as former Chinese leader Mao Zedong once used the word for the Soviet Union.
The development of North Korea’s carefully controlled private sector also suffered a major setback with the government’s apparently disastrous efforts to revalue the currency early last year.
“They don’t call it ‘change’ right now,” Jin said of the North Korean reforms.
But he said Kim’s visit would “greatly affect the development of the North Korea”, citing a possible agreement on the development of the North Korean port of Rajin, also known as Rason.
The north-eastern port is seen as a flagship of the tentative reforms.
With Chinese investment, the North Korean government planned to develop Rajin into a “north-east Asian logistics centre, trade centre, tourism centre and an international industry zone”, Jin said last year.