Just after a bitter spat between U.S. and Chinese diplomats in Alaska, the leaders of China and North Korea reached out to each other, promising to strengthen their traditional bilateral alliance.
North Korean official media KCNA reported on Tuesday (March 23) that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping exchanged messages on Monday. Kim Jong Un called for greater “unity and cooperation” with China to meet the challenge of “hostile forces.
By “hostile forces,” Kim Jong-un apparently meant the United States. During the recently concluded U.S.-China talks in Alaska, the highest-ranking diplomats from both sides had a heated argument, and Yang Jiechi, a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s Politburo, changed his low-key style and denounced the U.S. in Chinese for 16 minutes in one breath at the beginning of the talks, causing an uproar in world public opinion. Many media commented that this could mark a new era of confrontation in the relationship between the two superpowers, the U.S. and China.
North Korea’s relations with the United States have also become significantly more tense. Kim Jong-un has repeatedly asked the United States to lift sanctions against North Korea as a precondition for the two countries to resume nuclear talks, but Washington has ignored this. Pyongyang has blamed the U.S. for its diplomatic isolation and economic difficulties.
Trade between the two countries came to a near halt when the North blocked the border between North Korea and China immediately after the New crown outbreak. South Korean intelligence agencies reported late last year that North Korea’s trade with China plummeted 75 percent in the first 10 months of last year, causing a shortage of materials. North Korean factory openings have consequently fallen to their lowest point since Kim Jong Un took power in 2011, while prices of imported foodstuffs such as sugar and spices have risen sharply.
According to Chinese official media outlet Xinhua, Song Tao, head of the Foreign Liaison Department of the CPC Central Committee, was assigned by Xi Jinping to meet with North Korean Ambassador Ri Yong Nam in Beijing on March 22 to convey a message to Kim Jong Un. Xi said, “At present, a century of changes and a century of epidemics are overlapping and the international and regional situation is evolving profoundly.”
He said, “The traditional friendship between China and the DPRK is a precious treasure shared by the two parties, the two countries and the two peoples. China is willing to work hand in hand with the DPRK to maintain, consolidate and develop China-DPRK relations.”
In conveying the message from Kim Jong-un, Ri Yong-nam said that the development of DPRK-China relations is “the envy of the world” and that the DPRK is confident that the friendly relations between the two sides will continue to develop well.
The meeting was held on March 14, 2012 at the Kremlin.
The Anchorage meeting followed “2+2” talks between Secretary of State Blinken and Defense Secretary Austin and the foreign and defense ministers of Japan and South Korea. In Seoul, Blinken criticized North Korea’s nuclear development program and human rights record and asked China to use its “enormous influence” to convince North Korea to accept the idea of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.