Kim Jong-un Hogs Int'l Limelight

  • By Lim Min-hyuk

    May 10, 2018 11:34

    Kim Jong-un is basking in the international limelight in a manner unheard of for a North Korean leader with his flurry of meetings with international top officials.

    This week alone Kim spent two days deep in discussion with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the Chinese port of Dalian and on Wednesday welcomed U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Pyongyang to discuss his impending summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.

    Kim and Pompeo discussed the date, location and agenda of the U.S.-North Korea summit, and Pompeo left triumphant with three U.S. citizens who had been held captive in the North. It was his second trip to North Korea since late March.

    Kim Jong-un

    After he came to power in 2012, Kim was for many years a virtual hermit, never leaving his isolated country or welcoming a foreign leader. He snubbed visiting Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, preferring to pal around instead with the eccentric former basketball player Dennis Rodman.

    But all that changed rapidly this year after he met a special delegation from President Moon Jae-in in Pyongyang on March 5. Since then, Kim has held a summit with Moon, visited China twice to see Xi, and welcomed America's top diplomat in Pyongyang. He now awaits the first-ever U.S.-North Korea summit, while Japan is also pushing for a summit.

    In another break from the precedent set by his grandfather and regime founder Kim Il-sung and father Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un brought his wife to several of the meetings.

    All it took was a vague pledge to scrap his nuclear weapons, which he spent the best part of his rule squandering his country's scarce resources building up. Since coming to power, he conducted four nuclear tests and launched 80 missiles.

    There remains a wide gap between Washington's demands for a "permanent, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement" of the North's nuclear and ballistic missile programs and Kim’s own proposal of gradual and phased denuclearization with rewards at each stage.

    So far people around the globe seem mesmerized by his charm offensive. U.S. President Donald Trump now refers to him as "very open" and "very honorable," while Moon has praised him as "candid and honest."

    It remains to be seen whether he can permanently end his country's notorious isolation.

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