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Kim Jong-un is cozying up to China’s Xi Jinping

Oct 02,2018
As North Korean leader Kim Jong-un courts U.S. President Donald Trump through flowery letters, he is also reaching out to Chinese President Xi Jinping in an attempt to open a “new era” of Pyongyang-Beijing relations.

Kim sent a congratulatory message to Xi to mark China’s 69th founding anniversary, North Korean state-run media reported Monday, a turnaround from last year when it remained largely silent on the occasion.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that Kim expressed the “steadfast” stance of the North Korean government and its ruling Workers’ Party to develop their traditional bilateral relations into a “friendship on a new stage.”

Kim and Xi held three summits in China in March, May and June, and North-China relations have thawed considerably over the past year.

KCNA reported Monday that Kim noted that he “values the ties and affection forged” in his three summits with Xi this year. He then expressed his willingness “to strive together to further deepen the DPRK-China friendship” based on the “precious legacy” left by the previous generation and “in keeping with the requirement of the new era.”

DPRK is an acronym for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The message comes as North Korea-U.S. denuclearization talks seem to be gaining momentum with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo scheduling another trip to Pyongyang this month and a second Kim-Trump summit also being planned.

Kim’s message to Xi noted the “eye-opening changes” that have been made in politics, economics, culture and science and technology in China over the past 69 years and lauded Xi’s two centennial goals toward prosperity by the years 2021 and 2049. It added that the North Korean people “rejoiced” over the great prosperity of the Chinese nation as if it was their own.

Emphasizing “fraternal” bonds with the Chinese people, Kim went on to “wholeheartedly” wish China and its people prosperity and happiness.

The congratulatory message to Xi was reported on the front page of North Korea’s official Rodong Sinmun and was its top article.

One year ago, amid ongoing tensions due to Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests, its state media did not report any message from Kim on China’s founding anniversary.

North Korea sent Choe Ryong-hae, its powerful vice chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party, to a reception hosted by the Chinese Embassy in Pyongyang last Thursday to mark China’s founding anniversary, an indication of improved bilateral relations.

Last month, China sent Li Zhanshu, its third-ranked official and chairman of the National People’s Congress, its rubber-stamp parliament, as a special envoy from President Xi to Pyongyang to take part in an event to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the North’s founding anniversary.

On Sunday, Trump proclaimed at a rally in West Virginia that Kim and he “fell in love,” through exchanges of “beautiful letters,” which have also been not so beautiful. Trump canceled the first North-U.S. summit in Singapore in a letter in late May, and the talks were revived after a courteous letter to Trump from Kim.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]


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