China, North Korea Aren't Describing Secret Visit the Same

Here's what we can infer from that
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 28, 2018 12:41 PM CDT
China, North Korea Aren't Describing Secret Visit the Same
In this March 26, 2018, photo provided March 28, 2018, by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, and his wife Ri Sol Ju, center right, are greeted by Chinese Communist Party members on the arrival at Beijing station in Beijing.   (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

Now that North Korea and China have confirmed Kim Jong Un's first trip abroad since becoming his country's leader, the analysis has commenced. The Wall Street Journal pores over how the respective state media are covering the visit—noting such accounts "serve as official readouts for such high-level meetings"—and specifically zeroes in on where they diverge. North Korea's initial reports make no mention of any denuclearization pledge, but do describe Xi Jinping as having accepted an invitation to visit. China characterized future plans only as Kim desiring to "have opportunities to meet [with Xi] regularly," and further sought to obtain pole position, with TV reports showing Xi talking while Kim dutifully took notes (the New York Times notes the significance of that footage, too).

  • Why: It boils down to motive. China is seeking to seize the reins from South Korea and assume its go-between role between the US and the North, and so it is painting Xi as what the Journal calls both an "elder" and "global statesman."

  • Echoing that: The Los Angeles Times seconds that "why." There are just 500 miles separating Pyongyang and Beijing, and on China's part, there are national security implications should discussions with the US and South Korea go awry. It needs to keep its seat at the table.
  • The US takeaway: At the Atlantic, Ankit Panda says the visit makes clear China is no "side player," and Panda summarizes what the US takeaway should be: "No matter what, North Korea and China will continue to share long-term strategic objectives." He also notes that when the North speaks of denuclearization, it's talking not about "irreversibly" obliterating its stockpile but of relinquishing weapons "in exchange for the United States withdrawing its nuclear shield from the Peninsula and leaving altogether. This would comport well with Chinese objectives."
  • Echoing that: The Washington Post sees a similar message for the US: "Any moves on North Korea must go through Xi." As Panda also asserted, Xi doesn't want the Kim regime to fail, as such an occurrence could flood his country with refugees and have US troops pour into the region.
  • Why now? The Post talks to North Korea expert Jean H. Lee, who sees the recent frosty relations between the North and China and the increased rhetoric with the US as giving Kim the "space and justification he needed" to go all-in on his nuclear program. "Now, with a program he feels confident is a proven threat, he feels emboldened to force the region’s leaders to treat him as an equal, not as the young son of a dictator who inherited power."
(More Kim Jong Un stories.)

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