After months of public relations flirtation that led the world to believe that Kim Jong-un would be taking his first foreign trip as head of state to Moscow this month, North Korea has abruptly cancelled the voyage, according to a Russian diplomatic source.
The news comes on the heels of South Korean intelligence reports of yet more purges in the upper echelons of the north, where the spring has been punctuated by executions. The victims are alleged to have included a forestry official, a would-be architecture critic and several espionage-prone members of a state orchestra that travelled to Paris in 2012. (While North Korea’s “first lady” Ri Sol-ju is frequently connected to that musical ensemble, known as the Unhasu Orchestra, she ceased performing with it in 2011 – and the group has already been through a previous round of grisly execution rumours which turned out to be at least partially false.)
North Korea’s cancellation of the Kim Jong-un visit does not mean that the state has stopped its diplomacy altogether. One elder statesman recently returned from a conference in Bandung, Indonesia, where he reconnected with North Korea’s good friends – in this case Robert Mugabe and envoys from Syria and Iran – and there have been vigorous and ongoing discussions with Mongolia and Russia about railroads, coal and off-shore oil exploration.
Compared with this spring’s total quarantine of the country and the closing of the long northern border, due supposedly to fears over an Ebola outbreak, North Korea is indeed still open for business – and tourism.
But Kim Jong-un’s inability to leave his own country even for a few days ought to raise questions about what precisely he is afraid of.
Read the whole thing at The Conversation (UK).