China and N. Korea media provided contrasting official reports on unofficial Kim visit

by WorldTribune Staff, March 30, 2018

North Korean and Chinese state media outlets took different paths in their reporting of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s unprecedented visit to Beijing, where he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

While China’s state-run media focused on the discussions between Kim and Xi and on tensions on the Korean Peninsula, North Korea’s propaganda outlets “played up the pageantry and atmosphere of the visit,” Chun Han Wong wrote in a March 28 analysis for the Wall Street Journal.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un and Chinese President Xi Jinping flanked here by Kim’s wife, Ri Sol-Ju, left, and Xi’s wife, Peng Liyuan, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 26. / KCNA / KNS / AP

Chinese state-media reported that Kim told Xi that he was committed to denuclearization and is willing hold a North Korea-U.S. summit. North Korean media have yet to report on Kim’s stated willingness to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump.

North Korean media reported that Xi accepted Kim’s invitation to visit North Korea, but Chinese media did not mention Kim’s invite, only saying that the North Korean leader hopes to “have opportunities to meet the Comrade General-Secretary [Xi] regularly.”

Related: State of Kim Jong-Un: Graffiti on landmark building rocks Pyongyang regime, March 27

Prior to this week’s visit, Kim Jong-Un had not traveled outside of North Korea since taking power after his father, Kim Jong-Il, passed away in 2011. Likewise, Xi Jinping had not visited North Korea since becoming president. Analysts had long debated which of the leaders had snubbed the other.

“Although both sides characterized this week’s visit as amiable, Chinese state media portrayed Mr. Kim as a supplicant, casting Mr. Xi as an elder statesman exerting a calming hand over tensions on the Korean Peninsula,” Wong wrote.

Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) described a March 27 lunch between the leaders and their wives as “overflowing with a harmonious and intimate atmosphere from its beginning to the end.”

Chinese TV news showed Kim writing a congratulatory message after touring an exhibition showcasing Chinese scientific achievements. Xinhua described him as expressing “admiration for the achievements made by China in scientific development and innovation.”

According to KCNA, Kim wrote: “We can grasp the mightiness of China, a great neighboring country.”

China’s Xinhua, quoted Kim as saying it was his “obligation” to visit and inform Xi about recent diplomatic efforts to ease tensions on the peninsula.

“Chinese state television showed the North Korean leader taking notes and listening attentively with clasped hands as Mr. Xi spoke during their summit meeting – contrasting with Pyongyang propaganda that regularly show Mr. Kim surrounded by note-taking aides,” Wong wrote.

For Kim, “visiting China helps demonstrate that relations with his main economic partner are intact, bolstering his leverage ahead of the summit with Trump,” Wong wrote.

Meanwhile, “China gets to demonstrate its influence over Korean Peninsula issues, while North Korea feels less isolated” before going into talks with South Korea and the U.S., said Cheng Xiaohe, an associate professor at Renmin University in Beijing.

Wong noted that neither side mentioned the 1961 “Friendship Treaty” that obliges them to help each other if attacked. The pact has been criticized recently as outdated by some Chinese analysts as bilateral relations soured.

Despite it being billed as an unofficial visit, Kim’s itinerary in Beijing “featured much of the pomp and ceremony associated with full state visits – a review of honor guards, a summit meeting and a banquet at the Great Hall of the People. The two leaders were accompanied by their wives at times,” Wong wrote.

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