BEIJING Oct 3 China quietly deferred a request
by North Korea for its young leader to visit last month because
the Chinese leadership was preoccupied with its once-in-a-decade
leadership change and a host of other distractions, two
independent sources said.
The move also suggests that China, North Korea's main food
and oil supplier, may be seeking an assurance from the isolated
state that it drops its nuclear ambitions, one source said,
after it ignored warnings from Beijing not to go ahead with a
rocket launch in April.
Kim Jong-un's desire to visit China in September was relayed
by his powerful uncle, Jang Song-thaek, effectively the second
most powerful figure in North Korea, when the latter met Chinese
leaders on a visit to Beijing in August.
But China discreetly put off the request, which was never
publicised, because the Chinese Communist Party has been busy
preparing for its five-yearly congress which is scheduled to
open on Nov. 8 when leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping is tipped to
replace Hu Jintao as party chief.
There is no new timetable for Kim's visit.
"Kim Jong-un wanted to come but it was not a convenient
time," a source familiar with China's foreign policy said,
speaking on condition of anonymity.
"The diaries of Chinese leaders were full with certain set
events they had to attend," the source said, citing Premier Wen
Jiabao's summit with EU leaders in Brussels in September.
"...From China's perspective, he has to come with something
positive," the source said, referring to North Korea dropping
threats to conduct a third nuclear test.
Impoverished North Korea is under U.N. Security Council
sanctions due to its 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests. Earlier this
year, Western powers had expressed concern that North Korea
would carry out a third test, but it never took place.
North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Pak Kil-yon told the U.N.
General Assembly on Monday that the country's nuclear deterrent
was a "mighty weapon that defends the country's sovereignty" and
Analysts have said Beijing may be loath to host Kim due in
part to North Korea ignoring Chinese warnings against the rocket
launch in April. The U.N. Security Council, of which China is a
permanent member, strongly condemned on the failed launch as a
violation of council resolutions.
Any insistence on Beijing's part for "something positive",
for instance that North Korea reins in its nuclear ambitions,
would indicate that it is holding its alliance with Pyongyang to
a tougher test.
Former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, who died in
December, made six visits to China from 2004 to 2011 while Hu
was in office (Hu is president until March 2013), a period that
also saw Pyongyang actively engage in missile and nuclear arms
The Chinese leadership has also had distractions apart from
the party congress. It has had its hands full debating the fate
of ambitious politician Bo Xilai, who was expelled from the
party last month and faces prosecution for abusing power, taking
huge bribes and other crimes.
Xi, the incumbent vice president, was recuperating from a
bad back and out of the public eye for almost two weeks last
month, skipping meetings with foreign dignitaries, including
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Another distraction was anti-Japanese protests that erupted
across China over disputed islands in the East China Sea.
"There were too many things going on. (China) could not host
Kim Jong-un," a source with close ties to Pyongyang and Beijing
told Reuters. The source had revealed Kim's wish to visit.
North Korea's request was relayed through the Communist
Party's international department which deals with foreign
The international department and the Chinese Foreign
Ministry were not immediately available for comment as China is
on a week-long holiday to mark the Mid-Autumn Festival and