Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping traveled to Pyongyang to meet with dictator Kim Jong-un on Thursday, the first Chinese leader to visit North Korea in 14 years. Xi expressed strong support for Kim and said he wanted denuclearization talks between North Korea and the U.S. to “move forward and bear fruit.”
Xi praised North Korea’s diplomatic efforts and promised China would play a “positive and constructive role” in stabilizing the Korean Peninsula.
China’s state-run Xinhua news service played up the visit as a great success, touting agreement between Xi and Kim that their countries should “stay true to their original aspirations and join hands to create a bright future of inter-party and inter-state relations at a new starting point in history.”
Xinhua’s account was filled with general platitudes about China and North Korea being members of the same happy Communist family, but contained few details of how the relationship between the two countries might get closer. Xinhua writes:
By reviewing the development of China-DPRK relations, an insightful conclusion can be drawn that it is the essential attribute of the relationship that both are socialist countries adhering to the leadership of a Communist party, Xi stressed.
Shared ideals, beliefs and goals are the driving force of the relationship, the continuous friendship between and strategic guidance by top leaders are the greatest strength, and the geographical proximity and cultural affinity offer a sturdy bond, he added.
The China-DPRK friendship is a strategic choice made by the two sides with a long-term and overall perspective and will not waver due to changes in the international situation, Xi said, adding that the friendship accords with the aspirations of both peoples, the fundamental interests of both countries and the development trend of the times.
Noting that China-DPRK ties have now entered a new historical period, Xi said that the CPC and the Chinese government attach great importance to the friendly and cooperative relations between the two countries, and that it is a steadfast policy of the CPC and the Chinese government to maintain, consolidate and develop China-DPRK relations.
In face of the profound and complex changes on the global and regional landscapes, China and the DPRK should strengthen high-level contact to guide the development of China-DPRK relations, Xi said, adding that he is ready to maintain close exchanges with Kim to consolidate mutual political trust and hold firmly the general direction of bilateral relations.
Kim, for his part, grumbled that North Korea has “taken many active measures to avoid tensions and control the situation on the Korean Peninsula, but has not received positive responses from the party concerned,” by which he meant the United States.
China’s state-run Global Times dwelled at length upon the splashy welcome Kim arranged for Xi. The Global Times writes:
From the welcome ceremony at Pyongyang International Airport to the unprecedented salutation at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, Xi received the highest-level reception in the capital of North Korea that shows North Korea attaches great importance to the China-North Korea relationship with firm traditional friendship, Chinese experts noted.
About 10,000 people participated in the ceremony at the airport to welcome Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Pyongyang citizens formed a long welcoming line alongside the highway from the airport all the way to the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun. There were national flags and banners with slogans about friendship, unity and welcome everywhere in Pyongyang on Thursday.
This is the first time that a visiting foreign top leader received a salutation from the North Korean people at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, a magnificent building near the northeast corner of Pyongyang that serves as the mausoleum for Kim Il-sung, founder of the DPRK, and for his son and North Korean former leader, Kim Jong-il, who were both posthumously designated eternal leaders of North Korea, Xinhua reported.
Mixed in with the Global Times’ cheerleading was a concrete suggestion, advanced by Zheng Jiyong of the Center for Korean Studies at Shanghai’s Fudan University, that Xi might be able to get denuclearization talks moving again by offering security guarantees to North Korea.
“China is capable of making North Korea feel secure and protecting it from unreasonable bullying and threats,” said Zheng.
South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo quoted Xi expressly promising Kim “every possible support” to deal with “security and development issues of reasonable concern.”
Chosun Ilbo noted Xi and Kim ostentatiously surrounded themselves with economic officials to hint at expanded commerce between the two countries after U.N. sanctions against North Korea are lifted, but speculated “the immediate gifts Xi brought with him are highly likely to be limited to humanitarian aid such as fertilizer and food.”
North Korean state media was greatly impressed with how “warm” and “friendly” Chinese and North Korean officials were to each other, writing:
The Supreme Leader [Kim Jong-un] warmly welcomed the Chinese President and his wife, who came with warm friendly feelings of the Chinese people, on behalf of the WPK Central Committee, the DPRK government and all the Party members and other people of the DPRK and on his own.
The Pyongyang citizens’ enthusiastic cheers in every street of Pyongyang today reflect the deep and friendly feelings of the Party and people of the DPRK toward the Chinese party and people and come to be a strong demonstration of the great DPRK-China friendship, the Supreme Leader said.
He recalled that the revolutionaries and peoples of the two countries had their destinies united into one in the flames of the sacred struggle for realizing the common socialist idea in the early days of their struggle and created valuable traditions of genuine comradely friendship, unity, support and cooperation.
He said the past four rounds of meetings and talks with the General Secretary confirmed again the truth that socialism is the unchangeable core of the DPRK-China friendship and the peculiarity and invincibility of the DPRK-China friendship lie in defending and glorifying socialism by pooling efforts, adding that the General Secretary’s visit serves as great political support and encouragement to the party members and people of the DPRK out in the accomplishment of the cause of socialism.
North Korean media quoted Xi’s promise to “preserve socialism, enforce the new strategic line and accelerate the course of the political settlement of the peninsula issue and thus create a good environment for self-development.”
Xi will travel to Osaka, Japan, next week for the G20 summit, at which he is expected to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump. Both Chinese and North Korean coverage of Xi’s visit to Pyongyang implied he will either speak with Trump on North Korea’s behalf or convey a message from Kim to Trump.