Following signs that bilateral relations had thawed over the weekend, there’s growing sentiment that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will visit Beijing to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping as early as November. It would be Kim’s first official visit to another country as the supreme leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, according to the Korea Times in Seoul, South Korea.
"It's possible Kim Jong Un will go to Beijing in November or in spring next year at the latest, given that Xi hinted at inviting the North Korean leader in his message last week," Kim Yong-hyun, professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul, told the Korea Times Tuesday.
Speculation began Saturday as Xi sent one of his most senior officials, Liu Yunshan, to North Korea to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of Kim’s ruling party, along with a warm note to the North’s leader. In the message, Xi said he extended the felicitations of his ruling Chinese Communist Party and sent his own personal well wishes. He praised Kim for achieving “positive progress in developing the economy, improving livelihoods, and so on,” according to the New York Times .
"Party-to-party relations are much more important than the government-to-government ties among the communist countries," An Chan-il, head of the Seoul-based World Institute for North Korea Studies, told the Korea Times Tuesday. "Xi's message and Liu's visit to North Korea mean party-to-party relations between the two allies will be strong, as they once had been.”
Kim may pay a visit to China before the North Korean regime marks the 104th birthday of its late founder and the Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il-sung, on April 15, An added. "It is expected that the North Korean leader will visit Beijing within a month in response to Xi's offer," he told the Korea Times. "If that's not the case, he may go there before next April when things will start to get busy in North Korea."
Beijing-Pyongyang ties were at an all-time low after Kim succeeded the three-generation lineage of North Korean leadership when his father Kim Jong Il died in 2011. Pyongyang reportedly angered Beijing when it conducted its third nuclear test in February 2013 and then in December executed Jang Song-thaek, Kim’s uncle and the country’s second-in-command who led a pro-China faction. Xi snubbed Kim in July 2014 when he visited the South over Pyongyang in his first foreign trip since taking office in 2013.