North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s uncle and the man seen as the power behind the young and untested leader went to Beijing on Monday, the latest signal that the reclusive state is looking seriously at ways to revive its broken economy.
The official KCNA news agency said Jang Song-thaek was visiting China, the North’s only major ally, to discuss setting up joint commercial projects and comes after leader Kim recently told Beijing that his priority is to develop his impoverished country’s decaying economy.
Last month, a source with ties to both Pyongyang and Beijing told Reuters the North was gearing up to experiment with agricultural and economic reforms after Kim and his powerful uncle purged the country’s top general for opposing change.
The visit by Jang, who has long advocated economic reforms in one of Asia’s poorest states, follows growing speculation that Pyongyang and its new leaders want bring changes to the way the economy is managed.
China is believed to be wary of pursuing a major new commercial venture with North Korea at a time of its own leadership transition and as Pyongyang continues to defy calls to divert scarce resources away from arms development program.
South Korea is the only other partner in commercial development in the North, with an industrial park just north of their heavily fortified border the site of factories where about 120 South Korean firms use cheap local labor to make goods.
North Korea already relies heavily on China to support its crumbling economy but its leadership has in the past proven deeply suspicious of any changes, seeing them as a threat to its control over the country. But Kim Jong-un, who took over when his father died in December, has presented a sharply contrasting image to his father and is believed to be planning to carry out economic and agricultural reform.
In another sign that Kim may be looking to end international isolation, he has sent the country’s nominal head of state Kim Yong-nam this month to Vietnam and Laos, where he was reported to have discussed economic development.
Source: ReutersTags: china, Jang Song-thaek, north korea