October 08, 2009 11:59
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il on Monday told visiting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao that denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was his father Kim Il-sung's "last wish." But he called once again for the U.S. to end its "hostile policies" toward the North through bilateral talks. And he added he was willing to return to "multilateral talks including the six-party talks" depending on progress in bilateral talks with the U.S.
Wen declared himself pleased that North Korea is committed to the goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula and multilateral contacts including six-party talks. "We hope that the relevant countries including North Korea will realize the denuclearization of the peninsula through joint efforts and contribute positively toward maintaining peace in Northeast Asia and pushing ahead with stability and development," a spokesman quoted him as saying.
Kim's remarks, relayed from Pyongyang by the official Chinese Xinhua news agency, make it evident that the North puts the priority on its bilateral talks with Washington and will engage in multilateral meetings including the six-party talks afterwards. Little has changed from what Kim told Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo when he visited Pyongyang a little while earlier.
Jin Canrong, deputy dean of the School of International Studies, People's University of China, told Central TV Wen's visit "brought little progress in multilateral relations around China and North Korea including denuclearization, but achieved major progress in bilateral relations." Liu Jiangyong, the deputy director of Tsinghua University's Institute of International Studies, expressed the same view on the channel.
Beijing-Pyongyang relations should therefore not be seen from South Korean or American perspective alone. The biggest reason for Wen's Pyongyang visit was to celebrate the 60th anniversary of formal relations between the two countries. From their perspective, bilateral relations are no less important than resolving the nuclear issue.
During the visit, Wen visited a monument to Chinese troops who died in the Korean War. At the grave, 100 km away from Pyongyang, Wen said, "The fatherland has already become powerful. The people are all happy now. We shall never forget you."
Chinese leaders had so far either omitted a visit to the monument or kept it simple since Beijing established diplomatic relations with South Korea in 1992 because the buried Chinese troops fought against U.S. and South Korean forces. But having grown into a world power, China now gives the impression of not caring very much about South Korea any more.
During the visit, Wen also reached an accord with North Korea's prime minister Kim Yong-il to build a new bridge across the Apnok (Yalu) River. The agreement suggests that the two sides are determined to expand economic exchanges substantially. The Chinese media described Wen's diplomatic activities in the North in the odd phrase, "Opening the future with lip and teeth depending on each other." The resolution of the nuclear issue is no doubt important, but the new relationship evolving between North Korea and China is worth watching for its own sake.
By Park Sung-joon from the Chosun Ilbo's News Desk
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