Report: Kim Jong Un may visit China

By Elizabeth Shim  |  Jan. 4, 2016 at 11:35 AM
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SEOUL, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Kim Jong Un could soon be making his first official visit abroad -- to China -- if negotiations between Beijing and Pyongyang in January produce a favorable outcome.

China's Song Tao, who heads the International Liaison Department of the Chinese Communist Party, could be setting out to North Korea soon, the Tokyo Shimbun reported Monday.

Song was the chief official responsible for inviting North Korea's Moranbong Band to China. Around the time of the band's visit, Song had said he hoped for "healthy and stable progress" in China-North Korea relations.

The move could be an effort to ease North Korea's criticism of China after a disagreement between Pyongyang's all-woman Moranbong Band and Chinese officials resulted in the abrupt departure of the troupe from Beijing.

If Song's visit takes place, it would be the first time the International Liaison Department is sending a chief envoy to North Korea since November 2012, when then-chief Wang Jiarui accompanied Li Jianguo, then the secretary-general of the National People's Congress, to Pyongyang.

North Korea, however, may have different priorities that defy Chinese expectations.

Pyongyang's state-controlled newspaper Rodong Sinmun reported Kim Jong Un had received a New Year's message from Russian President Vladimir Putin, and listed Russia ahead of China, North Korea's most important economic partner, in an announcement on North Korea's New Year exchanges with friendly countries that include Mongolia and Cuba.

According to the Rodong, RIA Novosti, a Russian news agency, had stated Kim Jong Un's Seventh Party Congress would be a success and then quoted Xinhua's report on the upcoming May assembly.

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