Pyongyang keen to stay close to Beijing: analysts

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 January, 2012, 12:00am


North Korea is keen to maintain positive ties with China, its closest ally, even though Pyongyang did not accept foreign official delegations - including China's - to Kim Jong-il's funeral last week, analysts say.

As Beijing did not send an official delegation to the funeral, that raised concerns that Kim Jong-un, who is now the supreme leader of the communist state, is not as close to the Chinese leadership as his father.

When Kim Jong-un's grandfather, 'Great Leader' Kim Il-sung, died in 1994, Beijing sent a delegation including Politburo member Ding Guangen , Premier Wen Jiabao , and Wang Ruilin , deputy director of the general office of the Communist Party's central committee.

Speculation arose that Vice-Premier Zhang Dejiang , who had studied in Pyongyang and speaks Korean, would be present at Thursday's ceremony, but China's foreign ministry said China's envoy to North Korea, Liu Hongcai, had attended instead.

Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said last week that North Korea had announced it would not accept any official foreign delegations, though it did receive mourners from South Korea including Lee Hee-ho and Kim Hong-up, the respective widow and son of late South Korean president Kim Dae-jung, and Hyun Jung-eun, chairwoman of Hyundai, the largest South Korean investor in the North.

Analysts said the differences in the funeral arrangements of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il might be because of the internal woes facing North Korea.

'Pyongyang's decision to refuse foreign delegations raises a lot of suspicion and confusion,' said Antony Wong Dong, president of the International Military Association, which is based in Macau.

'I believe Kim Jong-un is too young to handle so many things and his power is not very consolidated. He may not be able to handle foreign delegations.'

Veteran China observer Johnny Lau Yui-siu said North Korea might have wanted to avoid embarrassment. 'Pyongyang does not have many friends. It would have been an embarrassment if no country sent delegations after Pyongyang said it was ready to accept them,' Lau said.

Top Chinese leaders, including President Hu Jintao , signed a book of condolence at the North Korean embassy in Beijing.

China has made few comments on the situation in North Korea, other than to say that maintaining stability on the Korean Peninsula was good for all parties.