By Jeremy Laurence, Reuters
SEOUL — South Korean President Lee Myung-bak will this week ask China to use its influence to lean on North Korea to show restraint amid a delicate transition to a new leadership in Pyongyang focused on projecting a militaristic image. Lee will hold a summit with China’s President Hu Jintao in Beijing and will “discuss ways to develop the strategic partnership between the two nations and cooperative measures for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula,” the South Korean president’s office said in a statement.
Lee’s three-day state trip to China, his second in four years, starts on Monday. The South has said its primary foreign policy goal this year is maintaining stability on the divided peninsula as its unpredictable neighbor embarks on a third generation of dynastic rule following Kim Jong Il’s death last month. Little is known about Kim’s chosen successor, his son Kim Jong Un, who in his late 20s and who will be relying on a small circle of trusted members of the military and political elite to act as minders while he cements his grip on power.
As part of efforts to consolidate his power, state television in Pyongyang released a documentary on Sunday containing footage of the young Kim watching a 2009 long-range rocket launch with his father. He was also shown driving a tank. The 50-minute documentary, aired on what South Korean media speculated was Kim Jong Un’s birthday, offered no new personal details or insights into his thinking. Analysts say the young Kim may order a “provocation,” such as a small-scale military attack or nuclear or missile test, to burnish a hard-line image with the powerful military.
In line with his push to project a songun, or military-first, policy, Sunday’s documentary quoted Kim Jong Un as saying he was determined to wage war if any enemies intercepted the 2009 rocket launch.
Over the past week, the North, which has twice tested nuclear devices, has also stepped up its use of hostile language against the South.