I love you, China: North Korea woos Xi in lavish state visit; Kim says North Korea-China ties ‘invincible’

VIDEO: REUTERS
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Chinese President Xi Jinping reportedly agreed to have close strategic communication and deepen cooperation in various fields.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Chinese President Xi Jinping reportedly agreed to have close strategic communication and deepen cooperation in various fields.PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (REUTERS) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Chinese President Xi Jinping have agreed that strengthening bilateral ties, at a time of “serious and complicated” international affairs, was good for regional peace, North Korean state media KCNA said on Friday (June 21).

Mr Xi left the North Korean capital Pyongyang on Friday after a two-day visit, the first by a Chinese leader in 14 years.

During the visit, Mr Xi got a lavish reception that included thousands of people holding up placards that formed a picture of his face and the Chinese flag, and a performance of the song I Love Thee, China.

Mr Kim said Mr Xi’s visit was an “important opportunity” for the two countries to boast their “invincible” and “unchanging” friendship to the world, the KCNA  reported.

China is the North’s only major ally and Mr Xi’s visit is aimed at bolstering an ally under pressure from United Nations sanctions over its nuclear and missile programmes and a breakdown in denuclearisation talks with the United States.

The visit also comes a week before Mr Xi and US President Donald Trump meet at the Group of 20 (G-20) summit in Osaka amid an ongoing trade dispute.

Video footage and photos released by North Korean state media highlighted Mr Kim and Mr Xi's wide smiles as they met at the airport, drove through Pyongyang’s streets in an open-top limousine, and attended the “Mass Games” propaganda show.

KCNA said the Mass Games performance - titled Invincible Socialism - was specially prepared for the Chinese goodwill visit and included songs such as Without The Communist Party, There Is No New China and I Love You, China.

One sign in Chinese read: “Happy to see you Grandpa Xi”.

Other KCNA photos showed Mr Xi and Mr Kim smiling and laughing at the airport, on the red carpet, gazing at cheering children and sitting with their wives. 

The ruling party’s main newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, ran a special expanded edition on Friday, with eight out of 10 pages devoted to photos and text about Mr Xi’s visit.

CRUCIAL RELATIONSHIP 

Mr Kim said Mr Xi’s visit, which may see China bring fresh support for North Korea’s floundering, sanctions-bound economy, was “crucial” to show the world the unchanging friendship between the two countries, KCNA said.

While major allies, the two countries have often had strained relations.

Analysts say that Mr Xi’s visit is intended as a signal to Mr Trump of his influence and backing of Mr Kim.

Mr Xi said Beijing and Pyongyang agreed that a political settlement of the Korean peninsula’s nuclear issue has been “an inevitable trend”, and that they need to continue to stick to peace talks, according to China’s official Xinhua news agency.

The two leaders agreed to have close strategic communication and deepen cooperation in various fields, KCNA said.

In the South Korean capital Seoul, a UN human rights expert said there were signs that China had been collaborating with North Korea to arrest more North Korean escapees.

Tomas Ojea Quintana, the UN special rapporteur for human rights in North Korea, called on China not to send the detainees back to North Korea because they could face torture.

On Thursday, Mr Xi praised Pyongyang’s efforts towards denuclearisation and said the world hopes North Korea and the US can talk to each other and for those talks to be successful.

Since a failed summit between Mr Trump and Mr Kim in Hanoi earlier this year, Pyongyang has conducted some weapons tests and warned of “truly undesired consequences” if the US is not more flexible. 

At a dinner banquet on Thursday, Mr Xi said China firmly supported Mr Kim seeking a political solution to the Korean peninsula issue and the establishment of a great environment for self-development via “a new strategic route”, according to KCNA.