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, when the latter met Chinese leaders on a visit to Beijing in August.
But China discreetly put off the request, which was never publicized.
“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.
Former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, who died in December, made six visits to China from 2004 to 2011.