August 30, 2010 09:50
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has received surprisingly warm hospitality in China whenever he visited. Whether bilateral relations are good or bad, he is always being received by the Chinese Communist Party's general secretary -- twice by Jiang Zemin and three times by President Hu Jintao.
In 2004, 2006 and in May this year, all nine members of the Presidium of the Politburo met with Kim together or separately, a red-carpet welcome accorded no other foreign leaders.
On Kim's second visit in January 2001, then premier Zhu Rongji traveled all the way down to Shanghai to escort Kim on his tour of the Pudong District, drawing attention from all over the world.
At the time, although he privately disparaged China's reform and opening as "revisionism," Kim officially praised development in Shanghai to acknowledge the warm hospitality he was given, experts speculated.
Beijing-Pyongyang ties are more brittle than they were in the days of North Korea's founder Kim Il-sung, and Chinese diplomats privately say the North is a headache with its constant provocations and refusal to reform.
But Chinese leaders still roll out the red carpet for Kim since they are apparently worried that tension could heighten on the Korean Peninsula if their country's relations with the North go sour, and because they need the North as a bargaining chip with the U.S. and the Western world in general.
This time too, Kim was the guest of honor at a dinner for about 200 guests and apparently met Hu in Changchun.
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