Guess who’s coming to the Olympics? (maybe)

KCNA/AFP/Getty Images Speculation is growing that Kim Jong Il will soon make a few pitstops around the Pacific. First up for the North Korean president? Beijing. China’s Vice President Xi Jinping, who visited Kim in Pyongyang last week, reportedly asked Kim to attend the Olympics opening ceremony — though there’s been no word yet on ...

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593703_080728_kim5.jpg

KCNA/AFP/Getty Images

Speculation is growing that Kim Jong Il will soon make a few pitstops around the Pacific. First up for the North Korean president? Beijing. China's Vice President Xi Jinping, who visited Kim in Pyongyang last week, reportedly asked Kim to attend the Olympics opening ceremony -- though there's been no word yet on Kim's response. Another unconfirmed Kim stop is Vietnam, where North Korea's ties have grown closer in recent months.

For Dear Leader, Beijing probably looks like a good platform for improving his global image and expressing support for China, his chief patron. And U.S.-North Korean relations, which have warmed of late, could be advanced by a hint of greater openness from Pyongyang. (Wouldn't it be interesting if Kim rubbed elbows with Dubya at the games?) There's even talk of the two Korean teams marching together at the opening ceremony in a "gesture of peace."

KCNA/AFP/Getty Images

Speculation is growing that Kim Jong Il will soon make a few pitstops around the Pacific. First up for the North Korean president? Beijing. China’s Vice President Xi Jinping, who visited Kim in Pyongyang last week, reportedly asked Kim to attend the Olympics opening ceremony — though there’s been no word yet on Kim’s response. Another unconfirmed Kim stop is Vietnam, where North Korea’s ties have grown closer in recent months.

For Dear Leader, Beijing probably looks like a good platform for improving his global image and expressing support for China, his chief patron. And U.S.-North Korean relations, which have warmed of late, could be advanced by a hint of greater openness from Pyongyang. (Wouldn’t it be interesting if Kim rubbed elbows with Dubya at the games?) There’s even talk of the two Korean teams marching together at the opening ceremony in a “gesture of peace.”

I’m guessing that Kim’s real motive would be aid, much of which comes from China and Vietnam. Food shortages have prompted Kim and Co. to slash citizens’ rations in recent months, prompting fears of massive starvation. Kim’s recently strained relations with South Korea, which provides hundreds of millions of dollars of yearly aid to the North, certainly makes it necessary for the despot to seek help elsewhere.

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