Wednesday, 28 March 2018

The Big Reveal

Here's the photographic evidence - Kim Jong-un meeting Xi Jinping
The big news on Monday evening was the possibility that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was going Beijing, as an old dark green train that his father had used previously was pulling up to the train station in the Chinese capital and local residents were told to go away -- nothing to see here.

Kim was whisked to the Diaoyutai guest house for secret talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and as per tradition, the footage was not released until after Kim had left China, which was this morning.

An old train was seen pulling into Beijing on Monday evening
The 33-year-old North Korean leader was dressed in a Mao suit and he looked diligent, taking notes while Xi spoke of the importance of their bilateral relationship. Usually he is surrounded by an entourage of people who are frantically taking notes of whatever he says.

Meanwhile Kim said it was important for him to congratulate the Chinese president on the confirmation of his second term, though effectively he could rule for a long time now that the limits of his term have been lifted.

"He [Kim] said it was his obligation to come to congratulate Xi in person, in line with the [North Korea]-China friendly tradition," Xinhua reported.

In return, North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency described the meeting as "candid", and said Kim thanked Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan for receiving him like a "blood brother".

Kim took notes while Xi talked as a sign of respect
It turns out that China gets to meet the elusive leader first, followed by South Korea and then the United States. This was Kim's first overseas trip since he took power in 2011 and it was clear he would first pay homage to Xi.

This is a reminder of when, thousands of years ago, tributary states, like Korea, would visit Beijing and pay respects by bearing gifts. And now that Xi has accumulated so much power, it makes sense for Kim to do the right thing.

"North Korea, whether it likes it or not, has to take a kneel to China, and to communicate to China that it respects China and it needs China... it cannot do it alone without Chinese support, so this is a very humbling moment for North Korea in a sense," says Graham Ong-Webb, research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

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