General Secretary Nong Duc Manh and Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem (who is also deputy prime minister) are on a 3 day visit to North Korea on the invite of Kim Jong-Il. The visit is significant for several reasons, which could also be considered rationales for the North Korean side to sponsor the visit:
- Vietnam was voted in as non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council on 17 October (along with Burkina-Faso, Costa Rica, Croatia and Libya). The two-year mandate gives Vietnam a significant role to play in aspects of Korean peninsula nuclear issues. Was North Korea strengthening the relationship in light of this?
- Vietnam is also an example of an authoritarian socialist state that has made a successful transition to capitalism, while maintaining elite regime control. Vietnam now has strong regional relations and is marching forward in economic terms. While the differences in the two situations are enormous, there are still many lessons for North Korea to be learned from Vietnam. Is this the reason for the visit?
- Vietnam is a trade and political partner of sorts for North Korea. Recently, Vietnam has quietly allowed the transit of North Korean refugees seeking asylum in third countries. Is North Korea seeking to stop this trickle from turning into a flood?
Or is it, as one jubilant party goer at the Seoul Foreign Correspondents Club said on Friday, just to fill the ranks of the pleasure troupe with a little more color? Or is the influence of South Korea coming through?