Hu Jintao 'Declined Invitation to N.Korea'

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il had hoped to see Chinese President Hu Jintao in Pyongyang for a summit rather than visit China again last week, a source claimed Thursday.

Hu had accepted the invitation during Kim's last visit in May but decided such a visit would send the wrong signal amid international sanctions against the North after it sank the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan.

A diplomatic source in Beijing familiar with North Korean affairs said Thursday, "Back in July, the North asked China if Hu could visit Pyongyang, but it seems China declined saying it was not a good time."

China already faced condemnation from South Korea and the U.S. because it welcomed Kim Jong-il in May, and apparently Beijing felt a visit from Hu to the renegade country would be too much, according to the source. Instead, the two sides agreed a compromise meeting in the northeastern Chinese city of Changchun.

But others say that seems unlikely, pointing out that already in February the North had sent Kim Yong-il, the director of the Workers Party's International Affairs Department, to look around northeastern China, which was the destination of Kim’s trip last week.

If this version is accurate, Kim Jong-il's latest visit was planned from the start. Those who believe this reading point out that Hu appeared unprepared for the summit to the extent of more or less repeating what he had said during their meeting in May.

Major points Hu made in Changchun -- such as expansion of exchanges between senior officials, more strategic communications, and expansion of economic and trade ties -- were already mentioned in May.

Some Chinese experts are reportedly criticizing their government for letting the North have its way again. A diplomatic source said, "At the latest summit, Kim Jong-il made it clear why he was visiting China but the Chinese leadership seemed equivocal. Some Chinese academics are accusing Beijing of being too submissive toward the North."

englishnews@chosun.com / Sep. 03, 2010 09:14 KST