Kim Jong-un’s pro­file boosted by softer ap­proach

The Irish Times - Weekend Review - - 2018 REVIEW -

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-

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