Kim Jong-un says Beijing and Pyongyang ‘like family’
North Korean leader’s latest visit to China ‘served as an opportunity to deepen the friendship’ between two nations
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un pledged to deepen the relationship between Pyongyang and Beijing as he wrapped up his third trip to China on Wednesday, likening their ties to those within a family.
In a meeting held at a state guest house in Beijing before returning home, Kim told Chinese President Xi Jinping that the two countries supported each other like family members.
“The current visit to China has served as an opportunity to deepen the friendship between comrade general secretary [Xi] and I, and advance the ties between DPRK and China,” Xinhua quoted him as saying. Kim was referring to Xi’s capacity as head of the Communist Party.
The leader’s visit came a week after his historic summit with US President Donald Trump – during which North Korea agreed to work towards denuclearisation.
Kim’s third trip to China in three months was a sign the two nations still get along and that even though China was not involved in the Kim-Tump summit it is still influential.
North Korea’s news agency KCNA quoted Xi as saying relations between China and North Korea had entered a new stage of development. Kim said he was willing to bolster bilateral cooperation.
During his latest visit, Kim was accompanied by his top economic official, Premier Pak Pong-ju, on a visit to the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences. It was a clear sign of the restive state’s ambitions to boost its economic engagement with Beijing, analysts said.
Pak, 79, who is also a member of the supreme Presidium of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), was making his first visit to China, KCNA reported.
Wi Sung-rak, a former South Korean ambassador to Russia, said Pak’s visit was evidence North Korea was building up its momentum for economic development.
“It seems like the economy is one of its major areas of interest,” he said, adding that Pyongyang appeared to be focusing its efforts on cooperating with China in a bid to bring about an end to the UN sanctions.
Go Myong-hyun, a research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul, said Kim was aware he needed to have the sanctions lifted before he could start to attract foreign investment.
Despite his now lofty political status within North Korea, Pak was once considered something of a radical for his views on economic development.
In 2003, during his first stint as premier, he introduced the controversial “July 1 Economic Measures”. The policy not only sought to give autonomy to state-owned enterprises, but also to decentralise the planned economy, promote entrepreneurship, improve industrial profitability, and encourage financial independence for households.
His ideas faced huge criticism, however – mostly from WPK conservatives and the military – and played a large part in him being sacked from the premiership in 2007.
His reinstatement in 2013 – on the death of Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il – was seen as evidence of the country’s new leader’s economic ambitions.
Pak’s appearance in Beijing showed Pyongyang had expanded its negotiating team, said Baik Tae-hyun, a spokesman for the South Korean Unification Ministry.
According to Chinese state media reports, President Xi Jinping told Kim that Beijing supported his efforts to develop the North Korean economy.
During their last China trip, to Dalian in May, several members of the North Korean delegation visited the Donggang business district and state-owned electronics manufacturer Hualu Group.
As well as visiting the agriculture academy, Pak visited a rail traffic control centre.
Three of the North Korean officials who attended Kim’s summit with US President Donald Trump in Singapore last week – former spy chief Kim Yong-chol, foreign minister Ri Yong-ho and vice-chairman of the WPK Ri Su-yong – were also present at his meeting with Xi on Tuesday.
Cha Du-hyeogn, a visiting scholar at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul, said the officials’ presence signalled North Korea’s attempts to synchronise its strategy with China before its next round of meetings with the US on the denuclearisation issue.
In Singapore last week, the trio joined Kim for a meeting with Trump and his team of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Security Adviser John Bolton.
“The US will not be happy to see these North Korean officials meeting the Chinese before they have even arranged the next round of negotiations,” Cha said, adding that it was clear Kim was working on his tactics for the upcoming talks with the US.
“It seems like [the denuclearisation process] will take a very long time,” Cha said.