North Korea’s state media focused heavily on the nation’s relationship with China on Thursday, highlighting a visit from a Chinese group and arrangements for the bodies of Chinese tourists killed in a recent accident while on a tour of communist sites in the country.
North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong-un will meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the border of their nations on Friday. On the eve of this summit, the first of its kind since Kim became the head of his repressive state, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and state newspaper Rodong Sinmun emphasized China’s role as North Korea’s largest patron state.
In one piece, KCNA applauded the visit of a delegation from a group called the China Association for International Friendly Contact, which does not appear to be an official diplomatic group. The group reportedly laid a ceremonial wreath at the Sino-Korean Friendship Tower, a monument to the bilateral relationship, and paid “silent tribute to the martyrs of the Chinese People’s Volunteers who fought heroically on the Korean front against the U.S. imperialists’ invasion.”
Highlighting the visit serves both to indicate to China that it is still North Korea’s most important partner and to remind readers of North Korean media that the United States remains its top enemy, independent of any potential conciliatory language that Kim may use at the upcoming summits.
KCNA also published a piece Wednesday claiming that communists in Africa had publicly applauded the relationship between North Korea and China, perhaps to indicate that Pyongyang’s overtures to Beijing were not going unnoticed.
“Personages from Nigeria and Uganda issued statements on April 6 and 10 in congratulation of the respected Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un’s successful visit to China,” KCNA reported. One of the individuals quoted states that Kim “is an outstanding leader who smashed the imperialists’ moves for invasion and protected global peace and the human cause of independence under the unfurled banner of the Juche idea.”
Kim’s quotes about China published Thursday are even more deferential to China. The day before his meeting with Moon, Kim presided over the delivery of China of the bodies of 32 Chinese tourists, who died when their tour bus crashed on the road between Kaesong and Pyongyang. The tourists had paid a Chinese company to give them a tour of sights commemorating China’s role in the Korean War against the United States.
Kim Jong-un said in a statement:
We express the deepest condolences and apology to the Communist Party of China and the Government of the People’s Republic of China, all the Chinese people and the bereaved families of the victims over a tragic traffic accident in Pongsan County, North Hwanghae Province on April 22 that claimed casualties among many Chinese tourists.
“We make a deep apology to the Chinese comrades for the pain that cannot be alleviated with any word, consolation and compensation,” it continued. “It is, indeed, very sad that the close Chinese friends, who had come here with the feelings of friendship toward our people, met with an unexpected accident in our land.”
Kim personally tended to the trains that carried their bodies home.
After hearing Chinese comrades’ suggestion that the bodies and the wounded would be sent to the Chinese proper as soon as possible, the Supreme Leader saw to it that the formation of a train was made and took measures to ensure that the bodies and the wounded were sent in a responsible manner.
Kim publicly planned summits with Moon and U.S. President Donald Trump scheduled for April and either May or early June, respectively, as his first meetings abroad with foreign leaders. Before he met with either, however, he made history with his first foreign visit as head of state to Beijing, meeting with Xi Jinping and ensuring the Chinese government that they should not be concerned that Kim would distance himself from China to warm relations with other countries.
In remarks Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters that China hoped “their summits will be a success so that there will be more and more good news on the Korean Peninsula issue, setting us on the right path to the lasting peace of the Peninsula.”