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Wednesday, June 8, 2011     GET REAL

Cool reception for Kim Jong-Il on China trip
said to signal rift

By Lee Jong-Heon, special from

SEOUL — North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il has ended his week-long trip to China apparently empty handed, which shows a widening gap in their "blood-tied" alliance due to Pyongyang's nuclear drive, economic mismanagement and dynastic power transfer scheme, officials and sources here say.


North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il leaves a hotel in Mudanjiang in northeastern China on May 20.     
The 69-year-old Kim, who is still recovering from a massive stroke in 2008, made a week-long trip to China last week, marking his third visit to the sole communist ally and economic prop in just over a year, an unusual pace for the leader who rarely travels abroad.

In his record 6,000 km-long train journey, Kim visited northeast and east China as well as Beijing where he met President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao and other top officials. In southeastern city of Yangzhou, he was believed to have met former Chinese President Jiang Zemin in an effort to broaden Chinese endorsement of his plan to hand over his power to his son, Kim Jong-Un.

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Yangzhou is the hometown of Jiang who has a considerable clout over Vice President Xi Jinping, who is expected to be China's next leader.

As he traveled across China's northeastern region and prosperous eastern areas, Kim visited an automaker, IT companies, a solar energy company and a large discount store as well as a top electronics company. The visits were largely seen as a move to demonstrate his interest in the Chinese-style reform and opening in order to get much-needed economic assistance.

But South Korean officials said Kim's visit has done little to secure Beijing's promise of economic assistance and approval for the dynastic transfer of power, both crucial to the survival of his regime.

"Kim has failed to win what he wanted to get during his visit, especially economic assistance," a government official said. "China may provide food aid as a gift for Kim, but is highly unlikely to make massive economic assistance and investment he wants to see," he said.

A separate diplomatic source here said Kim used the talks to call for direct involvement by the Chinese central government in development projects in the North, but Hu and Wen rejected it, stressing "mutually beneficial" cooperation.

"This indicates Beijing would not provide massive economic aid to the North just for political reason," he said.

In protest to China's cool response, the North cancelled two events for joint economic projects.

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