Jeffrey LewisTang Jiaxuan Wraps Up Visit to Pyongyang

Chinese State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan (right, with the Il-iminator) is wrapping up a two day visit to Pyongyang.

Kim Jong-Il reportedly told Tang that “the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was the behest of President Kim Il Sung.” Kim also affirmed “a negotiated peaceful solution of the nuclear issue” and expressed hope for “positive progress” during the talks.

Tang Jiaxuan is a former Foreign Minister, who has been playing an active role in China’s Korea diplomacy. Hu Jintao recently named Tang as his personal representative on North Korean Talks.

The day after China announced Tang’s visit, North Korea agreed to return to Six Party Talks over steak, cheesecake and California wine.


I spent a couple of days trying to track down a rumor in Beijing that Tang had slipped out of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting in Kazakhstan June 3-6 to make a secret visit to Pyongyang that helped push Kim back to Six Party Talks.

David Lampton notes China has used secret trips in the past to pressure North Korea:

More recently, in December and January of last year, when Pyongyang threatened withdrawal and then actually pulled out of the non-proliferation treaty, Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan traveled to North Korea and made it clear China’s opposition to the move.

In March of this year, then vice premier Qian Qichen-still influential today-made a secret trip to North Korea where, as I understand it, he told the North Koreans to start talking to the United States. The three-way talks in Beijing followed quickly, in April. Most recently, in mid-July, deputy minister of foreign affairs Dai Binggou carried a letter from China’s president to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il again advising the North to resume talks with Washington.

Welcome to Kazakhstan

According to Chinese media, Hu Jintao’s plane (with Tang aboard) landed in Kazakhstan at 16:55 local time on Sunday, July 3.

Tang reportedly attended a meeting on the morning of June 4 (The Kazakh release is vague) and then meet some Chinese acrobats late at night on July 5.

The Chinese delegation departed (again, fully loaded with Tang) sometime Wednesday afternoon on July 6, arriving in Scotland for the G8 meeting at 18:10 local time (the same day).

That leaves about 36 hours for Tang to fly to Pyongyang, hold meetings and get back to Kazakhstan.

I don’t know, to be honest.


Sonni Effron and Barbara Demick of the Los Angeles Times summarize recent developments in the Six Party Talks.

Really first class work.