Beijing-Pyongyang: Developments in and Around North Korea from the Chinese Media
A South Korean research group quoted in Beijing now maintains that Kim Jong Eun has been “running the government” since October 10; a December 22 KCNA report quoted in Chinese describes an outpouring of new poems and songs to eulogize Kim Jong Il, evoke Mount Paektu and associate the successor with the mythical mountain and anti-Japanese mystique, and at the same time cementing the story that Kim Jong Il “worked through his very last night” on this earth; Huanqiu Shibao reporters in Pyongyang report that the number of mourners on the streets is now down, and people are standing in line to lay wreathes in more orderly fashion; the somewhat hawkish former George W. Bush administration Korea hand Victor Cha is quoted in this Huanqiu Shibao piece on Western opinion toward North Korea, sounding rather more moderate than in his initial New York Times piece, and Marcus Noland also gets a nod for acknowledging that external influences are hardly impacting North Korea’s internal direction at present, and also endorses a Toronto Star editorial endorsing restraint toward North Korea; Xinhua reporters Zhang Li and Zhao Zhan [张利/赵展] are in Pyongyang, noting that the Chinese Ambassador there, Li Hongcai, brought his wife and the entire embassy staff for another round of wreath-laying for Kim Jong Il, while more importantly, the same article indicates that the North Korean official Jin Chengji 金成基 is essentially permanently attached to the Chinese Embassy in Pyongyang and is serving a vital linkage role between the North Korean Foreign Ministry and the PRC (he was present at a significant December 3 meeting about Rason, for instance, at the Chinese Embassy in Pyongyang); a number PRC Central Committee members, including China’s #2 Wen Jiabao, visited the North Korean Embassy in Beijing yesterday afternoon/the delegation included Li Keqiang, and headman for law-and-order Zhou Yongkang; Wen Jiabao’s remarks at the Embassy are of some interest; a longish Huanqiu Shibao op-ed keeps China talking about North Korea; Xinhua releases a handful of photographs from Pyongyang street scenes; a short editorial asks the question: “Will North Korea take China’s path toward reform?”; it is picking up lots of Netizen comments like “what do we gain?”; in a slightly abnormal move, Huanqiu moves to spread the word further with this television segment about its initial North Korea editorial, “China is the Friend Upon Which North Korea Can Rely During its Transitional Time” (translated previously on SinoNK.com).
Update: Here is the text from Wen Jiabao at the NK Embassy in Beijing, where, we learn that DPRK Ambassador to China Ji Jae Ryong [池在龙] is in fact at his station; he received Wen and his party, which included State Council members Ma Kai [马凯] and Dai Bingguo [戴秉国]. Here in any event are Wen’s remarks as relayed by Huanqiu Shibao:
他说，金正日同志是朝鲜党和国家的伟大领导者，是中国人民的亲密朋友。长期以来，他为发展中朝友好合作关系作出了重要贡献。我们相信，在朝鲜劳动党和金正恩同志的领导下，朝鲜人民一定会化悲痛为力量，推动社会主义建设事业取得新的成就。中方愿同朝方一道，为进一步巩固和发展两国传统友谊与合作而共同努力。Wen said, “Comrade Kim Jong Il was the North Korean [Workers’] Party and country’s great leader, and a close friend to the Chinese people. Since long back, he developed the cooperative and friendly relations between China and North Korea, producing great achievements [in that area]. We believe that with the Korean Workers’ Party under the leadership of comrade Kim Jong Eun, the North Korean people will certainly powerfully pass through their grief, pushing forward to new successes in socialist construction. The Chinese side wants to take the same road as the Korean side, in order to further and consolidate and develop the traditional friendship and cooperation between the two countries, striving together.”
The key thing here is a.) Wen Jiabao’s explicit evocation and acceptance of Kim Jong Eun while b.) clearly demarcating that Wen, at least, prefers to deal with stable institutions like the Korean Workers’ Party foremost, which happens to be represented by the successor. This rhetorical shift is slight — rather like the US State Department referring to “the DPRK” rather than “North Korea” — and it has been ongoing, but we see it most explicitly here. You don’t get much more direct than a speech in the North Korean Embassy.