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North Korea takes lessons from China

North Korea’s leader travelled through China this week to observe the very economic reforms that he has resisted for decades.

world Updated: May 26, 2011 23:16 IST

North Korea’s leader travelled through China this week to observe the very economic reforms that he has resisted for decades.

Chauffeured in an armoured train and convoy of black Audi sedans, Kim Jong Il toured an automobile factory, a solar panel plant and a discount store, where he reportedly inquired about cooking oil but didn’t buy anything.

Kim’s fling with Chinese commercialism — capped by a sit-down on Wednesday in Beijing with Chinese President Hu Jintao — fostered the latest hopeful talk that North Korea will open the world’s most controlled economy. For outside analysts, though, the trip revealed the odd stagecraft North Korea must perform as it bluffs interest in reform and then converts China’s approval into the aid and diplomatic support Kim needs to keep his country intact.

Kim, 69, wants to gain Beijing’s backing for plans to pass power to his youngest son, Kim Jong Eun.

North Korea experts in Seoul and Washington point out that Kim, for decades, has both marvelled at China’s development and rejected its policies.

The Chosun Ilbo, a major Seoul daily, reported that the countries will join in two more projects this month. Isolated from much of the international community, and increasingly ignored by South Korea, Pyongyang is “apparently trying to show that effects of economic sanctions by the South can be balanced out by economic cooperation with China,” the paper wrote.

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