China Must Explain What Happened During Kim Jong-il's Visit

      May 07, 2010 13:20

      North Korean leader Kim Jong-il appears to have held a marathon summit with Chinese President Hu Jintao at the National People's Congress Hall on Wednesday that lasted around four-and-a-half hours and included a dinner. Then on Thursday, Kim reportedly boarded his armored train to return to Pyongyang. But even on Thursday, four days after foreign media spotted Kim in China, Beijing's Foreign Ministry said that it had "no information to provide."

      There is no way of knowing who attended the Kim-Hu summit and what the two leaders discussed. In the past, China revealed details about Kim's visit only after he left through the state-run Xinhua news agency.

      Kim's latest visit has been the focus of international attention, not least because it is tied to the investigation into the sinking of the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan and the prospect of resuming the stalled six-party talks. U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said on Wednesday, "We obviously are aware he's there." Crowley added, "We are fully supportive of South Korea's investigation, and obviously, when that investigation is completed, we will all draw conclusions and … then we'll have potential implications." Sung Kim, the chief U.S. negotiator to the six-party talks, also said that the six-party talks will not take place until the cause of the Cheonan sinking becomes clear.  

      The reason South Korea and the U.S. have decided to hold off until the investigation is completed is because the international community will need to take concerted steps against North Korea if it is found to have been behind the sinking of the vessel. The North Korean leader boycotted the six-party talks over the past year and five months and visited China only after he faced mounting international scrutiny over the shipwreck, bringing the stalled negotiations to the forefront of attention. If China plays along with the strategy, the talks would lose their original purpose of denuclearizing North Korea and turn into a ploy to divert from its terrorist acts.

      It would be a heavy blow to cooperation among the members of the talks if China gives North Korea massive economic aid even as the members are trying to convince the North to give up its nuclear weapons. Beijing must clearly explain Kim’s latest visit to its partners -- South Korea, Japan, Russia and the U.S. -- as well as any controversies and questions that have been raised over it. China owes it both to the other four countries that have been working together to deal with the North Korean nuclear threat and to its own status as an international power.

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