Friday, May 20, 2011

Educating Leader (UPDATED)

UPDATE 1:
Although the WaPo had also reported that Kim Jong-un is the one in China, AP is now saying that it might actually be Kim Jong-il himself (Yonhap has the story here). This doesn't change my theory below: China is acquiescing to preservation of the dynasty only if North Korea goes along with China's plans and ideas, and Beijing will be pushing to make sure Kim Jong-un understands what is expected.

UPDATE 2:
Here is the latest from Yonhap and the LAT. They are saying the original reports had it backwards and it is now kinda sorta confirmed that Kim Jong-il is in China, while they're still wondering if Boy Wonder is with him. Note that the the LAT's picture (shown below) is of the North Korean embassy in Beijing even though the reports indicate that the Dear Leader and/or his son are in the part of China much closer to the DPRK. Very confusing (not to mention sloppy), and I don't understand why they do things like that.

The media, which is largely failing to grasp the on-going story about China's Manchurianization of North Korea, is speculating that this trip "might be a request for food and economic aid," so they are assuming the final destination will be Beijing (and it indeed could be). The LAT's Barbara Demick does seem to have some inkling of what's going on, with her mention of the de facto Chinese takeover of a North Korean island in the Yalu River.

Regarding the confusion of Who's On First right now, the initial reports were not entirely wrong, as they were half right in saying that "it remains to be seen whether he was traveling alone or together with Kim Jong-il," and it turns out KJI is there and KJU himself might be there.

Actually, if L'il L'il Kim is not with Daddy Dearest, it would appear Beijing is less eager to groom Kim Jong-un, which strengthens my theory all along that KJU is being treated by China as The Kim Who Wasn't There and that they are only reluctantly going along with any inkling of a succession only in exchange for major concessions on reform and "minor" concessions on territorial control (see below). And the fact that either one of the Kims is in Northeast China strengthens that overall theory as well.

Just read this below and follow the links and it will all make sense.

This is the LAT's photo for the KJI-in-China story. It's a paramilitary police officer at the North Korean embassy in Beijing, opening a gate for a diplomatic car. Even though KJI is not in Beijing, this is the go-to spot for a photo for the story, which only confuses the reader. KJI is, if reports are correct, not in Beijing but in China's northeastern provinces. This is key because it is those provinces that Beijing is pushing to have North Korea integrated with. It is those provinces' economic reforms that Beijing is modeling for Pyongyang. By the way, I have visited this embassy, back in college. I talked with some North Korean diplomats inside. Nice people, or so it seemed. 


ORIGINAL POST:
Yonhap is reporting that heir-inapparent Kim Jong-un is in China.

From Yonhap:
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's heir apparent son, Kim Jong-un, has been confirmed to be visiting China, a source in a Chinese border city said Friday.

The junior Kim arrived in Tumen, in the northeastern Chinese province of Jilin, early Friday morning, but his next destination has yet to be confirmed, the source in Tumen told Yonhap News Agency. The source asked not to be identified, citing the issue's sensitivity.

Security has been tightened considerably in Tumen and areas linking the Chinese city with North Korean border, the source added.

A ranking government official in Seoul said that the North's presumed heir may have certainly arrived in China considering circumstances observed so far, noting he is unlikely to travel to Beijing.
When Beijing summons the leader of its vassal state, it can only mean one thing. The problem is, we usually have to guess at what that one thing is.

The press will likely fall over itself showing how it is yet further evidence that the Young General is solidifying his role as next leader of North Korea...
The trip is widely seen as China's seal of approval for what would mark the communist regime's second hereditary power succession.
... but I, on the other hand, am a bit more skeptical.

As those of you who travel in the alternate universe of Monster Island* know, China is leveraging its tentative support for the Kim Dynasty as a way of solidifying its control over North Korea and its plans to integrate it into China's Northeastern Provinces, what I call the Manchurianization of North Korea.

We've already seen Chinese troops moving into the free-trade zone port of Rajin/Rasŏn to secure a Chinese-controlled outlet on the Sea of Japan. And we are likely witnessing Beijing allowing dynastic rule to continue as long as the Pyongyang regime makes economic reforms, including researching socialism-with Chinese characteristics as well as plain old capitalism.

In exchange for Beijing's continued support, the Pyongyang regime is also being forced to give political and geographic concessions that allow China to meld the future Inner Cháoxiān Autonomous Region with the provinces of Jilin, Liaoning, and Heilongjiang.

And thus it's notable that Kim Jong-un is not headed for Beijing but is instead going no farther than the provinces just beyond the river. No doubt this trip by the younger Kim is meant as a means to educate the future king. We've seen this before and we should expect to see it more and more.

So, in conclusion, it is not a seal of approval. It's driver's ed.

*actually a peninsula

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