China's President Hu Jintao and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il shake hands at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Thursday. The photo was distributed by China's official Xinhua News Agency Thursday.
BEIJING--This week saw what appeared to be a re-injection of warmth and energy in relations between two longtime ideological allies with a shared history of fighting side by side in war.
No. Not that “special relationship” between the U.S. and U.K.
That other one, between North Korea and China.
In the past few days, we have been treated to the pomp and circumstance of President Barack Obama’s visit to Britain—including a Guard of Honor inspection at Buckingham Palace, a state banquet hosted by the Queen, an address to both Houses of Parliament, and dissection within the British media about how their country is back in America’s good graces.
Even China’s 24-hour state-run news channel, CCTV13, devoted significant minutes to covering Obama’s trip and the bond between the two nations—now known as the “essential” relationship.
Contrast that with the coverage of Kim Jong-il’s visit to China this week, which has been virtually nonexistent.
Well, okay, it’s existed, but was essentially unconfirmed until it was over.
Early confirmation of a sort did come from a surprising corner. During a summit with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts in Japan last weekend, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao mentioned his government had invited Kim to visit “to understand the Chinese development and use it for their own development.”
However, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has stuck to its usual line, refusing to comment on the visit.
Just about the only news outlets that have confidently reported the North Korean leader’s trip through China via his special armored train (he doesn't like to fly) have been the South Korean and Japanese ones.
Although grainy sightings of Kim in Jiangsu Province have popped up online, reporters for most other news organizations stuck to using words like “reportedly” and “allegedly” in covering the story.
Even the Chinese government-run Global Times had resorted to quoting other media for its coverage, explaining that, as a rule, officials from both countries don’t comment on rumors or reports of Kim’s visits as they’re in progress.
However, by late Thursday, China's state broadcaster CCTV and Xinhua finally confirmed the visit -- which was seen as an indication that it was over since neither Beijing nor Pyongyang report Kim's visits until after he returns to North Korea.
Among the highlights of Kim’s alleged visit were: tours of factories, an industrial park, and a shopping center; meetings with Wen and President Hu Jintao; and a visit to the Zhongguancun tech corridor in western Beijing.
Pictures, of course, have yet to emerge of the Dear Leader looking at any of these sights. China's official Xinhua News Agency only released the photo of Kim with Hu, seen above, Thursday.
And while some observers have speculated on the reason for Kim's visit (food aid? tips on how to set up a market economy?), there's been plenty more guessing about the identity of a woman in his traveling entourage (wife? translator? the power behind the man?).
It’s believed Kim is already back in North Korea's capital, Pyongyang.
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