May 27 – North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-il returned to Pyongyang on Thursday after his recent trip to China from May 20 to May 26 during which he held meetings with President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiaobao.
During his trip, Kim visited Mudanjiang in Heilongjiang Province, Changchun in Jilin Province, Yangzhou and Nanjing in Jiangsu Province, and China’s capital city of Beijing. His stops included visits to farms, households, factories, and high-technology centers where he was said to have witnessed China’s progress in terms of economic development, social construction, technology and culture.
During talks between the Kim and Hu, they pledged to work towards maintaining their bilateral cooperative relationship. Kim also invited Hu to visit North Korea and Hu has accepted. Kim’s visit was significant for both parties since this year celebrates the 50th anniversary of signing of Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance between the two nations.
The two leaders also touched on the need to ease tensions between the two Koreas and the sensitive issue of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula. Kim also mentioned that the six-party talks should be resumed at an early date. Tensions between the two Koreas reached a peak after North Korea’s artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island last year which resulted in casualties and went without apologies from the North.
As the visit was carried on rather secretively, it has attracted more attention from the international media. Even with much speculation about Kim’s visit to China, as well as photo evidence which seems to feature Kim meeting with Wen Jiabao, North Korea and China were reluctant to confirm the visit. The two parties finally confirmed the visit on the same day through North Korea’s state media and China’s Xinhua report.
In its report, the Korea Times interpreted the visit to be motivated by North Korea’s need for economic assistance. Paik Hak-soon, the director of inter-Korean relations at the Sejong Institute, noted that the visit is a movement by Kim Jong-il to speed up economic gains as the year 2012 is nearing, which is the year North Korea promised prosperity to its people and also the centennial anniversary of the birth of former North Korean leader Kim Il-sung.
Many international media view this visit as an indication of North Korea’s growing economic dependence on China as it becomes isolated from the international community.
North Korea’s economy has been in a grave situation for some time now and relies on China as its only left ally to offer support.