Kim Jong-un’s profile boosted by softer approach
2018 North Korea
rection,” he said.
During the year, Kim travelled to China three times in less than three months. While the nuclear issue was undoubtedly on the agenda, he was also looking for insights into economic reform and took the time to visit the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences and a unit of the Beijing Infrastructure Investment Company.
Something similar happened when North Korea’s foreign minister Ri Yong- ho met Vietnamese prime minister Nguyen Xhan Phuc this month during a four-day visit.
This was believed to be a mission to l earn about doi moi, the programme of economic reforms begun in 1986. The reforms are similar to those seen in China – political power stays with the Communist Party but the government steps back on economic matters.
The view in China is that the US must now step up if a solution is to be found.
“For me, North Korea, and I think even for China, North Korea is softening. But America won’t even agree to have a dialogue with Kim Jong-un to discuss formally ending the war between US and North Korea. The problem lies with the US that there is no progress after Singapore,” said Shi Yinhong, who is director of the Centre for American Studies at Renmin University in Beijing.
“It depends on what Trump does. If the US is willing to make some actual compromises regarding formally ending the war and on sanctions, then North Korea will make even more progress in terms of denuclearisation . . . the US role is decisive.”
A subtle but telling shift that North Korea might be moving away from hardline Stalinism to something closer to the Chinese model came when reports emerged that Ri Chun- hee, the KCTV news anchor known as the “Pink Lady” for her pink traditional hanbok dress, was being moved aside to make way for younger, more contemporary news-