Kim's Beijing visit marks start of N. Korea's formal comeback to world stage

Kim Jong-un Photo: Getty Images

Top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Kim Jong-un on Wednesday wrapped up a two-day visit to Beijing where he was formally welcomed as a head of state for the first time since coming to power over six years ago, and exchanged views on bilateral ties and denuclearization of the Korean peninsula with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

This time, Beijing not only rolled out its red carpet to Kim, but also greeted the North Korean leader with a grand welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, national anthems of China and the DPRK were played, President Xi and Kim inspected the military guard of honor of the People’s Liberation Army, a typical ceremony accorded to a head of state or government.

State media from both China and North Korea fell short of announcing the visit as a state visit, but it bears all the elements of a state visit and Kim actually enjoyed the first formal state etiquette since becoming the top leader of the DPRK in 2012, and the latest visit to Beijing marked the first debut on the world stage by Kim as a head of state, and also the first step of a comeback to the world community by the DPRK or better known as North Korea, which was bitterly isolated for decades and sanctioned lately over its tests of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

This was the third meeting between Xi and Kim in three months, and this time official media from China and North Korea broke away with tradition and announced Kim’s visit to Beijing as it was going on. Kim’s two previous visits to China, like many preceding visits to China by North Korea leaders,were shrouded in secrecy for security or whatever reasons and were only announced and confirmed after the visits were completed.

Undoubtedly, Kim personally nodded his agreement to the prompt announcement of an ongoing visit to China and he was keen to normalize the way he was viewed by the international community, said a Korea expert in Beijing on condition of anonymity.

In a clear understanding of the hierarchy of the East Asian politics and diplomacy, the young North Korea leader used his first two trips to China to consult with President Xi and other Chinese leaders over the later-coming June 12 summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore over the denuclearization of the peninsula and a possible thaw of North Korea’s relations with the United States and its allies.

This time in Beijing, President Xi, revered as a Godfather in East Asian politics by some analysts, got a read-out of the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore from Kim himself and Xi called for the implementation of the principle consensus reached in Singapore with North Korea committed to denuclearization and the United States committed to suspending military drills with South Korea.

The outcome of the Trump-Kim summit largely lived up to the expectations of China, which had been calling for a dual-suspension solution to the crisis on the Korean peninsula, namely North Korea suspends its tests of nuclear weapons and the United States suspends its military drills with South Korea on the peninsula. China also used many occasions to articulate its principle stance for a lasting peace, stability and denuclearization on the peninsula.

This time in Beijing, President Xi and Kim also struck upbeat notes over bilateral ties, which were reminiscent of the 1950s or the best years of relations between the two sides that were referred to as close as teeth and lips.

“The friendly cooperative relations between the two sides are radiating new vitality, the momentum for dialogue and easing of tensions on the Korean peninsula has been effectively strengthened”, Xi told Kim during their latest meeting in Beijing, “Under the joint efforts by the two sides, China-DPRK relations will certainly benefit the two countries and the two peoples”.

For his part, Kim pledged to work with China to promote bilateral ties to a new high, and play their due roles in safeguarding world and regional peace and stability.

For decades China has been the largest trade partner and assistance provider of North Korea, but the two sides experienced a brief period of time of alienation after Kim came to power over six years ago, top leaders from the two countries did not meet each other for five years of time. Beijing had endorsed and joined international sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear and ballistic missile tests, Beijing was also annoyed as its call for North Korea to improve the living standard of its people and open up its economy fell on deaf ears.

However, Kim’s three visits to China clearly indicated bilateral ties were back on track, and cash-strapped North Korean counted on Beijing to provide more economic assistances, ease the international economic sanctions and break the decades-old diplomatic isolation, and Beijing believed a peaceful and prosperous Korean peninsula falls in line with its own interests.

Kim’s third visit to Beijing also marked the start of his overseas visits as a head of state, and his next stop might be Moscow as Russian President Vladimir Putin has invited him to visit Russia, which is also an important player on the Korean peninsula issue. 

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