North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's entourage to a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao on Thursday was severely pared down, apparently because Kim is sulking after his hopes for Chinese investment in his backward country did not materialize.
According to the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency on Thursday, Kim was accompanied by just three officials -- Deputy Premier Kang Sok-ju, Kim Yong-il, a former premier and now party secretary for international affairs, and First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan.
But Hu Jintao attended the summit along with nine other officials including Vice President Xi Jinping, Wang Jiarui, the chief of the International Liaison Department of the Chinese Communist Party, and Commerce Minister Chen Deming.
A South Korean intelligence officer said, "It is natural for both sides to have a similar number of people attending the summit in diplomatic protocols. It seems Kim Jong-il was expressing dissatisfaction over less than satisfactory results of talks with Premier Wen Jiabao about economic projects."
A summit between the two heads of state in Changchun in August last year was attended by 10 officials from each side.
KCNA on Thursday said the two leaders "candidly exchanged views, and saw their opinions reach perfect harmony." But there are rumors that China is less than enthusiastic about the succession of Kim's son Jong-un.
China's Xinhua news agency said Kim stated the friendship between China and North Korea and their peoples "is a truly precious thing. We must relay this friendship on from one generation to the next. That is our great historic task." It was a broad hint that the Chinese leadership should form close ties with the heir in line. But Xinhua quoted Hu as merely paraphrasing what Kim said. "You ... attach great importance to developing Sino-North Korean relations, and since last year have visited China three times, stressing many times that the young generation must properly inherit the friendship between China and North Korea,"
Xinhua also reported that Kim hailed China's reform and open-door policy as "the right decision" while touring China's industrial zones, but the KCNA omitted that.
Kim's failure to woo pledges of massive Chinese state investment in two projects near the border is all the more galling since the focus of the trip seems to have been on purely economic matters. A Unification Ministry official commented, "One noticeable thing about Kim's latest trip is that he did not take any military officials along. Last year saw North Korea's attack on the Navy corvette Cheonan, and the North needed military support from China, but this time such issues seem to have been left out."
Kim Ok, Kim Jong-il's fourth wife who is reportedly back at the center of power, sat at the head table during a welcome dinner hosted by Hu on Wednesday.