Kim Jong Il's Visit to China a "Milepost," State's Zoellick Says

By Jane Morse
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington - North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's visit to China the week of January 16 may have given him "a good sense" of China's "shocking economic development," U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick says.

Responding to questions January 25 at a press roundtable in Chengdu, China, Zoellick said the visit had given Kim "a sense of what can be done in the Chinese system and led to some thinking."

Kim's discussions with Chinese officials reportedly included the prospects for economic reform in North Korea, Zoellick said.  He noted that China in the late 1970s decided not only to follow a course of economic development but also to follow a course of openness as a system - a philosophy the North Korea regime has yet to embrace.

"I think it's too early to see what it [the Kim visit to China] will produce," Zoellick said. "(I)t's an interesting sort of milepost, but where that road goes yet, I think is uncertain for all parties."

Zoellick said the Six-Party Talks - which involve North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States and seek to end North Korea's nuclear weapons program - have included discussions of "elements that lead to economic and political openness and aspects of peace on the Korean Peninsula."  (See U.S. Policy Toward North Korea.)

The deputy secretary said his current visit to China has focused on issues including the Six-Party Talks, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, economic issues and Chinese President Hu's upcoming visit to the United States.

"I also want to try to emphasize human rights and open society issues," he said, "so this time I met with some rule of law people, both Chinese and Americans.  I'm trying to understand more about the development in that field, some of which the United States supports, and get a better sense of how they see the changes taking place in China.  This relates to everything from the role of the parliamentary system to the role of the Bar to the judiciary.  It's partly a learning exercise, but also an encouraging exercise."  (See Democracy.)

In response to a question about the meaning of "stakeholder" with regard to China's role on the international stage, Zoellick said "the international system had been very good for China's development over the past 20-some years and that therefore China had an interest - as a stake - in the sustaining and advancing and strengthening of that system."

He noted that China is now playing "a positive role" with Iraq and Afghanistan, and has "shown some willingness in terms of trying to cooperate with the African Union, the European Union and the United States on Sudan." (See Darfur Humanitarian Emergency.)

According to Zoellick, "it is a sign of Chinese success and respect for China's success that it cannot help but influence the international environment."

China was the deputy secretary's second stop on a three-nation trip, which began in Japan January 22.  Zoellick also is attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 25-28.

See also "Security Alliance, Beef Trade Top Issues in U.S.-Japan Relations" and "Changes in China Critical Issue for U.S., State's Zoellick Says."

For more information on U.S. policy, see The United States and China.

The transcript of Zoellick's press roundtable is available on the State Department Web site.