Beijing invite for North Korean head

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 February, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 February, 1994, 12:00am

BEIJING has extended an invitation to North Korean President, Kim Il-sung, to visit the country in the near future.

Diplomatic sources said that while Pyongyang had yet to respond to the invitation, the Kim visit would help boost China's power as a major arbiter in regional affairs.

Two major heads of government in East Asia, Japanese Prime Minister, Morihiro Hosokawa, and South Korean President, Kim Young-sam, are scheduled to call in on Beijing next month.

The visit by President Kim Il-sung would help cement Beijing's role as a mediator among the major players in East Asia.

The sources said while Pyongyang had been irked by the growing ties between Beijing and Seoul, there was little question that President Kim [Il-sung] would accept the invitation.

However, the sources added, if his health was failing or if he was too preoccupied with the increasing ferocious power struggle that had broken out within the ''Kim Dynasty'', North Korean Prime Minister, Kang Song-san, would pay the visit on this behalf.

It is understood that Mr Kim Il-sung was anxious to see Chinese patriarch Deng Xiaoping before the latter lapsed into terminal senility.

Despite Beijing's recent ''tilt'' towards Seoul, President Kim Il-sung and his advisers had not given up hope that ''first-generation revolutionaries'' like Mr Deng would still have a sentimental attachment to the old ''lips-and-teeth'' relationship between the two communist neighbours.

According to Chinese sources, however, Beijing's major goal in having President Kim Il-sung come after the visits of Mr Hosokawa and Mr Kim Young-sam, of South Korea, was to demonstrate its influence in East Asia.

Japan and Western governments, particularly the United States, have urged Beijing to persuade Pyongyang to put a freeze on, if not dismantle, its nuclear weapon programme.

Chinese diplomats have also indicated their willingness to help promote the peaceful unification of North and South Korea.

Diplomatic analysts said, however, especially after Mr Deng's decision in the early 1990s not to increase economic aid to North Korea, Beijing's ability to influence Pyongyang's policy had been diminished.

They said President Kim Il-sung would visit Beijing after Mr Hosokawa and Mr Kim Jong-il, probably before the summer.

Aside from economic aid and co-operation - including the Tumen River Project, which involves investments by Beijing, Seoul and Pyongyang - President Kim Il-sung would likely seek Beijing's support for his son and anointed successor Kim Jong-il.

A bitter power struggle is expected to break out upon President Kim Il-sung's departure, who has not made a public appearance for months.

Sources said despite his avowed desire not to meet with any more foreign leaders, the rapidly ageing Mr Deng would likely agree to see President Kim Il-sung in private.