Satellite image shows N. Korean leader yet to begin trip to China

Satellite image shows N. Korean leader yet to begin trip to China


Seoul, 6 September 2006: A special North Korean train, often used by the country’s reclusive leader Kim Jong-il, is still in the communist state, dismissing reports that the North Korean leader may be on a visit to China or would soon do so, a government official said on September 5, citing satellite images of the train.

The confirmation came one day after sources in Dandong, a Chinese city just north of the Sino-North Korea border, said the North Korean leader’s train recently rolled into the adjacent North Korean city of Shinuiju and remained there, suggesting Kim was getting ready to cross the border.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, refused to provide the name of the city in which Kim’s special train was spotted, but said the train “has since moved from Shinuiju to a different area.”

“We cannot say where the North Korean leader’s special train is right now, but I understand there aren’t any special signs of an imminent trip (by Kim) to China,” the official said.

Other officials, however, said the possibility still exist, especially when considering recent visits by ranking North Korean officials, including Jang Song-taek, the North Korean leader’s brother-in-law, to China.

Earlier reports said Jang’s visit to China may have been aimed at arranging a visit by Kim. The Chinese government has also been said to have invited the North’s reclusive leader on a state visit as part of efforts to restore relations between the two, which went sour in early July after Pyongyang test-fired seven ballistic missiles despite Beijing’s opposition.

China’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday dismissed the reports of Beijing’s plan to invite Kim, saying “there are no such arrangements.” But sources close to the China-North Korea relationship believe Beijing cannot afford to allow its relations with Pyongyang to further deteriorate amid reported signs of preparations by its communist ally to test a nuclear bomb.

They, however, said it would take at least a few more days before the North Korean leader embarks on a trip to China as Washington’s chief negotiator in international talks over North Korea’s nuclear ambition is on a visit there. “Even if he visits (China), he is more likely to make the trip after watching the outcome of talks between China and the United States,” an observer said.

North Korea has refused to attend the Beijing-based nuclear negotiations since November, citing what it claims to be a hostile U.S. policy toward it.