No Signs of Kim Jong Il in Dandong

Shenyang, China — Rumors abound that Kim Jong Il is on the brink of a trip to China, but there is no sign of unusual activity today around Dandong, the main gateway to China from the North. So it seems that Kim is not heading for China, at least not today.

Following a statement from the office of President Lee Myung Bak on the 31st which said that the possibility of Kim Jong Il going to China in the forthcoming days is considered to be high, South Korean domestic media have focused their reporting on predicting the timing of the visit and likely agenda items.

Regarding the presumed day, the focus is on today or tomorrow because the Chinese spring holiday season starts on the 3rd and the North Korean Supreme People’s Assembly is scheduled for the 9th.

However, contrary to the media excitement, the atmosphere in Dandong is unchanged. Although it is true that a safety check was conducted on the Korea-China Friendship Bridge between Shinuiju and Dandong yesterday, it is presumptuous to take that as a sign that Kim Jong Il will soon cross the bridge.

As of today, April 1, there have been no “special alerts” at strategic locations in the city, such as those imposed in 2006 when Kim Jong Il last passed by.

The Chinese border guard at the North Korea-China Customs House at Dandong Station is also operating normally. During special periods when Kim Jong Il is set to pass through, freight is normally halted, but today freight transportation is also continuing as usual.

An official with the Chinese Border Guard Unit in Dandong reported on the matter to the Daily NK, saying, “I have not yet received any instructions from the upper, so we are maintaining the usual security level.” Another key sign, North Korea’s National Security Agency (NSA) officials’ have not yet appeared late at night and at dawn around the bridge from Shinuiju.

In 2006 when Kim Jong Il’s special train passed by Dandong, the Chinese escorted his train across the Korea-China Friendship Bridge, at the Dandong Custom House and through Dandong Station. It started three hours before the special train arrived in the area.

An additional sign of impending movement could be a drastic reduction in the number of North Koreans on the North Korean side of the Yalu River in Shinuiju, or that the Zhonglian Hotel and the Guomen Hotel on the Dandong bank of the river tend to be filled with North Korean guests at important moments. However, there has been no uptick in North Korean guest numbers in those hotels, while Shinuiju shows no signs of upheaval.