North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

KJI Returns Home

Kim Jong Il returned from his week-long sojourn to Russia and northeast China on 27 August (Saturday).  Kim Kyong Hui (Kim Kyo’ng-hu’i) and Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) led a group of the central leadership which greeted him at the train station.  On his return to the DPRK, KJI visited Tonghua City, before his train crossed the DPRK-China border around 17:00 on Saturday.  Unlike his return from China in May, KJI and his welcome-back party did not visit Hu’ich’o’n Power Station or any other infrastructure projects.  Instead, he attended a banquet jointly given by the National Defense Commission and the Party Central Military Commission.  He also attended a concert of the State Merited Choir.   Yonhap reports:

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il attended a banquet held to congratulate him on his “successful” recent visits to Russia and China, the North’s state media said Monday.

The banquet was hosted by the Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers’ Party and the National Defense Commission, according to a brief dispatch by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), monitored in Seoul. It did not mention where or when the event took place.

Kim returned home on Saturday after an eight-day trip aboard his special armored train across Russia’s Far East and northeastern China. The trip included summit talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev near the Siberian city of Ulan-Ude on Wednesday and tours of various industrial sites in both countries.

A view of Kim Jong Il's rail route through Russia to northeast China during 20-27 August 2011 (Photo: Google image)

Among those who attended KJI’s post-return events was CMC Member and commander of the KPA Air Force (Korean People’s Air Force), Gen. Ri Pyong Chol (Ri P’yo’ng-ch’o’l).  Gen. Ri was spotted in attendance at one of KJI’s interactions with Dmitry Medvedev, as part of DPRK efforts to acquire military aircraft from Russia, although Ri was not reported by DPRK media to have accompanied KJI on the trip. Chosun Ilbo reports:

“Photos taken by foreign news agencies during the North Korea-Russia summit show Gen. Ri Pyong-chol, the commander of the North Korean Air Force, standing in formal suits [not in military uniform] between Kim and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev,” a South Korean security official said Sunday.

It is rare that an Air Force chief accompanies Kim on an overseas trip. “This is decisive proof that one of the goals of Kim Jong-il’s visit was to buy new fighter jets from Russia,” a source familiar with North Korean affairs said.

A list of Kim’s official entourage released last Sunday by the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency included Minister of the People’s Armed Forces Kim Yong-chun, Ju Kyu-chang, the first vice-director of the Ministry of Defense Industry, and Pak To-chun, Workers Party secretary for munitions, but not Ri.

A South Korean government official said, “As a four-star Air Force general, Ri would deserve a place on the list, but it seems his name was omitted deliberately.”

Neither Pyongyang nor Moscow made it clear whether the two leaders discussed supply of munitions to the North.

Kim Jong Il meets with Russian pilots at the Chkalov Aeronautic Complex in Novosibirsk in August 2001 (Photo: KCNA)

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