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Kim Jong-un

Kim Jong-un’s lack of diplomatic experience ‘may have prompted China visit’ to help prepare for Trump summit

Former Korean foreign minister says Xi Jinping could offer North Korean leader useful tips on dealing with unpredictable US President

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 March, 2018, 3:24pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 March, 2018, 8:55pm

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s lack of experience in summit diplomacy may have been an important motive for his visit to China, according to a former South Korean foreign minister.

Yun Byung-se said that even though Kim had been formally invited by Xi Jinping, it is possible that Kim was the one who had initially requested a meeting.

The China visit was the first time the reclusive North Korean leader was known to have left his country since coming to power in 2011.

Kim is preparing for his upcoming talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in April and with Donald Trump the following month, but Kim is not experienced in summit diplomacy, Yun told the South China Morning Post.

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“He may need advice from Xi, especially on how to deal with Trump who is not predictable,” he said.

Xi, who already had bilateral meetings with Trump in Mar-a-Lago and Beijing last year, is better prepared for dealing with the US leader, Yun said.

Kim’s visit to China was shrouded in secrecy with heavy security deployed in the Diaoyutai State Guest House and the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

Despite the heavy security presence, there was no official confirmation that he was visiting China until the train carrying him had left Chinese territory on Wednesday.

But Yun and other observers said Kim’s visit could have been finalised at least two weeks earlier.

Yang Jiechi, China’s most senior diplomat, was due to visit South Korea on March 21 and 22, but South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said on March 16 that Yang’s trip would be postponed.

South Korea did not explain the reason behind the postponement, and Yang’s visit only began on Thursday.

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Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute at the University of London, said that it was likely that Yang’s visit to South Korea was delayed because of Kim’s visit to China.

“It would make a lot of sense to the Chinese Government to wait until Xi had met with Kim before sending Yang to meet with the South Koreans.

“The Xi-Kim meeting has made China relevant and a key player again on the future of the Korean peninsula.”

Professor Sun Xingjie, a North Korea expert at Jilin University, also linked the postponement of Yang’s trip to the South Korea to Kim’s visit.

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“As there is no mention about the reasons for the delay to Yang’s visit, it is safe to say that the two events [trips for both Yang and Kim] have something to do with each other, when it is judged by the timings of what have happened.”

But Tsang, however, pointed out that it was going too far to assume that the date of announcement, March 16, was the date when an agreement was reached for Kim to visit Beijing.

He said: “I can see Beijing asking to defer the Yang visit once the prospect of a Xi-Kim meeting looks promising. There is no way of knowing the exact date when Kim agreed to visit Beijing.”

Additional reporting by Jeongho Lee