Chinese state media claimed that Communist Party chief Xi Jinping landed in Pyongyang, North Korea, Thursday to “hundreds of thousands” of people lined up to greet him, waving Chinese flags and chanting communist slogans.
Xi arrived for a two-day visit and met dictator Kim Jong-un at the airport, Xi’s first visit to the country. Kim has visited China four times in the past year and made China the setting for his foreign state visit as the nation’s dictator. Chinese and North Korean media have both proclaimed the visit an attempt to bolster ties on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of formal diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Xi’s visit also arrives amid ongoing tensions between the United States and both countries. Kim failed to convince American President Donald Trump to drop sanctions on his country without Kim giving up his illegal nuclear weapons program in a failed summit in February. Xi, in turn, is watching his economy suffer in an ongoing trade dispute with the United States triggered by China’s irresponsible global economic actions, including rampant intellectual property theft and espionage.
Given the closed nature of North Korea, the only details of Xi’s visit available so far come from Chinese and North Korean communist media. North Korea bans all media not produced by the state and rarely allows foreign reporters into the country.
According to China’s Xinhua news agency, Kim forced 10,000 people to greet Xi at the airport and another unknown “hundreds of thousands” to fill the streets of Pyongyang in his honor.
“Under Chinese and DPRK national flags and large welcome banners, nearly 10,000 people lined up at the airport, waving flowers and chanting cheerful slogans to welcome the Chinese guests,” Xinhua reported. “Hundreds of thousands of people lined up all along the way from the airport, waving flags and flowers and chanting ‘Long Live the China-DPRK Friendship’ and other slogans to show their welcome.”
Rallies and parades to honor the communist regime and its allies are common and mandatory. North Korean citizens must express extreme enthusiasm for the ruling Kim family and the juche communist system at all times or face being relegated to a lower caste, or songbun, and potentially imprisonment at a labor camp. The most recent example of an effusive forced display of support for a foreign leader in Pyongyang occurred in November, when Cuba’s second-in-command, President Miguel Díaz-Canel, paid a state visit to the island nation’s close ally.
“Following a grand welcome ceremony complete with a 21-gun salute, Xi headed to the square of the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, where he became the first foreign leader to receive a salute at the highly symbolic site,” Xinhua added.
In addition to the parades, Kim ensured that North Korea’s state media welcomed Xi with lavish praise.
“Newspapers of the DPRK in their editorials on Thursday say that the Korean people warmly welcome with delight Xi Jinping, president of the People’s Republic of China, who is coming to the DPRK with the warm friendship feeling of the fraternal Chinese people,” the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), North Korea’s main official news outlet, reported on Thursday. It listed the state newspapers Rodong Sinmun and Minju Joson among those praising the “invincible” friendship between North Korea and China
“The deep comradely trust and faith forged between the leaders of the two countries became the root of bonds of kinship that united the two peoples into the inseparable destiny and it has been invariably carried forward generation after generation for centuries,” KCNA proclaimed.
Xinhua suggested that the objective of Xi’s visit is to celebrate the two countries’ longstanding relationship and added that Kim and Xi followed up the effusive display with “talks.” Neither KCNA nor Xinhua elaborated on what the two discussed. South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency speculated that the two leaders would likely negotiate ways that China could help North Korea survive the ongoing sanctions placed on the communist rogue state for its illegal nuclear weapons program, allowing it to continue to refuse to abandon its offensive behavior. The international sanctions on North Korea do not, in theory, affect food and other humanitarian aid, potentially granting China an avenue to help Kim that does not jeopardize its standing internationally.
Xi Jinping hinted at offering North Korea more aid in a column published by Rodong Sinmun on Wednesday, in anticipation of his visit.
“China will unswervingly support Chairman Kim in leading the DPRK [North Korea] to implement the new strategic line and focus on developing economy and improving people’s livelihood for new and greater achievements in the socialist construction of the DPRK,” Xi wrote. “We are pleased to see that with Chairman Kim’s correct decision and the concerted efforts of all parties concerned, the general trend of peaceful dialogue on the Korean Peninsula has taken shape, and a political settlement to the Peninsula issue sees a rare historical opportunity.”
Xi did not specify which of Kim’s decisions – insisting on sanctions relief without making any material efforts to end his nuclear weapons program, rejecting negotiations with the United States following President Donald Trump’s walkout during their last summit, or reportedly demanding visits to Pyongyang by “famous basketball players” in exchange for denuclearization, among others – was the “correct” one.
The Global Times, a Chinese state propaganda newspaper, appeared to prepare for criticism of its aid to North Korea with columns criticizing the United States for its sanctions on the country.
“The abrupt US initiative to maximize sanctions despite stability on the peninsula and in Northeast Asia is harmful to the denuclearization process,” the newspaper argued on Tuesday. It noted reports that Washington had reached its limit on food aid shipments to the country this year and accused the United States of having “undoubtedly jeopardized previous efforts to alleviate the situation.”
The US has been creating tensions, irresponsibly leading to twists and turns in the negotiations,” the Global Times continued. In contrast, the newspaper cited the “strategic trust” between China and North Korea as a benefit to the world, and preemptively condemned those who “often misinterpret” their relationship thanks to “ideological bias and … a narrow geopolitical perspective.”
Following his visit to North Korea, Xi will head to Japan for the annual G-20 summit, where he is expected to engage in an in-person discussion with Trump over, among other things, North Korea and the ongoing trade dispute between their two countries.