Exclusive: North Korean leader seeks trip to China for economic help

Sat Sep 29, 2012 10:17pm GMT

(This story from Aug. 24, 2012, corrects the description of the source who appears in the first paragraph. An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the source previously predicted North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006. The corrected version of the description of the source appears in the 25th paragraph)

By Benjamin Kang Lim

BEIJING (Reuters) - North Korea's young leader wants a state visit to China in the latest move in his push to lift the isolated state out of decades of poverty, but risks further fraying ties with his only powerful ally by sticking to the threat of a new nuclear test.

It is not clear whether China will be prepared to host him, as requested, in September when Beijing will be preoccupied with its own leadership change. The leadership may also have its doubts about the unproven Kim Jong-un, who after only four months in office, defied his giant neighbour by conducting a long-range rocket test.

A source with ties to both Pyongyang and Beijing told Reuters on Friday that Kim's uncle, Jang Song-thaek, effectively the second most powerful figure in Pyongyang, had asked for the visit when he met Chinese leaders on a visit to Beijing last week.

"It will be a state visit. This was one of the most important missions of Jang Song-thaek's visit," the source told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

China's foreign ministry declined to comment on the proposed visit, which would be Kim's first trip abroad since he took office and became the third of his line to rule North Korea.

Kim, in his late 20s, appears to be trying hard to soften the dour image of his dictator father whom he succeeded in December.

He has appeared waving and smiling at public events, even attending a pop concert that included Disney characters, and at times - just as unusually for a North Korean leader - accompanied by his wife.   Continued...

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) waves as he visits military units on islands in the most southwest of Pyongyang in this picture released by the North's official KCNA news agency in Pyongyang August 19, 2012. REUTERS/KCNA
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