Rodong Sinmun buries message from Xi Jinping
The Rodong Sinmun, the mouthpiece of the North Korean regime, published a message sent by Chinese President Xi Jinping congratulating the nation on the 66th anniversary of its founding on Tuesday.
But the message was published on the third page rather than on the front page, where such messages are usually featured.
Analysts said this was a blatant sign of the tenseness in relations between Pyongyang and Beijing.
In contrast, the front page of yesterday’s Rodong Sinmun featured the same kind of congratulatory message from Russian President Vladimir Putin in the most prominent spot, the top left of the page just below the masthead.
On yesterday’s second page, the newspaper published a photo of an event celebrating the anniversary with senior party officials in attendance in a conference hall in Pyongyang. Leader Kim Jong-un was not present.
Tuesday’s Rodong Sinmun reported that the message from Beijing’s Communist Party leaders congratulated Kim Jong-un, Kim Yong-nam, the chairman of North Korea’s Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, and the cabinet premier, Pak Pong-ju.
It was printed on the right side of the third page next to Kim Jong-un’s congratulatory message to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for his upcoming birthday.
Tuesday’s front page carried an editorial commemorating the foundation anniversary and the second page featured 11 photos of founder Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jong-il.
Rodong Sinmun’s placement of Xi Jinping’s message was a complete break from past customs in which messages from Beijing normally made the front page.
A government official specializing in North Korean affairs said it was a deliberate act.
“By placing Xi Jinping’s message behind that of Putin’s, printing them a day apart and giving more emphasis to Putin’s message, the North sent a diplomatic message,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“I think it sheds light on the somewhat estranged Sino-North Korean relationship.”
Tension between the allies emerged when Pyongyang launched a satellite-bearing rocket in December 2012 despite Beijing’s warning not to do so. Tension reached another high when the North proceeded with a third nuclear test two months later, which led to an additional round of United Nations sanctions that China agreed to, much to Pyongyang’s dismay.
The North also expressed its clear dissatisfaction when Xi Jinping agreed with President Park Geun-hye’s position on a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula during a visit to Seoul in July.
“Some countries with no principles are following suit in hugging Park Geun-hye,” said the spokesperson of the North’s powerful National Defense Commission in a statement released on July 21 in a reference to China.
While President Xi has met President Park a number of times, including reciprocal summits in the leaders’ capitals, he has neither held a summit with Kim Jong-un nor visited Pyongyang since Kim took power.
BY LEE YOuNG-JONG, KANG JIN-KYU [firstname.lastname@example.org]