August 16, 2018 09:42
North Korea has mysteriously banned foreign visitors amid rumors that Chinese President Xi Jinping is going to Pyongyang soon.
Radio Free Asia on Tuesday reported that the North has suspended foreign group tours and banned visits by foreign businesspeople until Sept. 5.
A businessman in the Chinese city of Shenyang told RFA that he had booked an airline ticket to Pyongyang for mid-August but his North Korean partner asked him to put off travel until after Sept. 5. Several other businessmen had also had to put off trips to Pyongyang. The instruction seemed to come from the regime, he added.
On Aug. 10, North Korean travel agencies told their Chinese partners they were suspending all group tours from Aug. 11 to Sept. 5. This has sparked speculation that Xi will visit Pyongyang ahead of the regime's 70th anniversary on Sept. 9. Comments on the possibility of Xi attending a parade in Pyongyang were posted on Chinese microblogging website Weibo but deleted soon afterwards.
"The ban seems aimed at tightening security and making preparations like refurbishing hotels for the founding anniversary," a diplomatic source in Beijing said. "We're keeping our eyes open for the possibility of Xi's visit there."
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has already visited China three times this year and has been busy inspecting facilities in the border region that could be candidates for Chinese investment.
During Kim's first visit in March, Xi accepted an invitation to visit Pyongyang. During inter-Korean basketball friendlies in Pyongyang in July, a North Korean official told the South Korean delegation that the regime invited Xi to the anniversary celebrations.
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