Kim Jong Un should visit China as soon as possible to assure Beijing that he can keep the country stable, the Chinese Communist Party’s Global Times said in an article published in the aftermath of the purge of Jang Song Thaek and his associates.
Writing in an editorial entitled “North Korean stability suits China’s interest,” the paper’s staff argued on Tuesday that a visit by Kim Jong Un – which would be his first since taking power in 2011 – would assure China that North Korea is stable.
Such a move, the paper said, would “benefit the North’s long-term stability and bilateral friendly ties”, because close relations are “not only critical to the North, but also a strategic and diplomatic leverage for China”.
“After the news of Jang’s fall came to China, there has been speculation on the Internet,” the editorial said, “but ordinary Chinese are more willing to see a stable North Korea and believe its leader has the ability to control the situation”.
Aidan Foster Carter, an Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Sociology and Modern Korea Leeds University, told NK News that “It’s intriguing that the Beijing press should take a rather more imaginative and proactive line. Invite the boy!”
“When NK bares its fangs [it’s not necessarily] the time not to talk, even if you sup with a long spoon,” Foster-Carter argued. “Go meet the kid. Find out what he wants. It’s absurd that the only one who knows him is Rodman”.
But despite hoping that Kim Jong Un might visit Beijing, the Global Times editorial also seemed keen to distance itself from the DPRK, arguing that North Korea and China “are not comparable in terms of politics and economy” and that “only on the Chinese Internet would anyone make comparisons between the two”.
Dr Adam Cathcart, an expert on North Korea-China relations, told NK News that the Global Times was keen to stress the differences between the two countries for fear of bringing comparisons between the purge of Jang Song Thaek and the purge of populist Chinese politician Bo Xilai last year: “It’s the clearest possible allegory, its why it’s so sensitive in China”.
“You have this senior party member who’s close to the apex of power… there’s so much similarity between the two cases,” he argued. “It’s highly sensitive on the internet, it’s why the Chinese have been so loath to discuss it”.
China did see Jang Song Thaek as a reformist moderate, Cathcart argued, for “the initial Chinese response was that this was a victory for the hard-liners, and it was not a positive sign for those who want to reform the economy and open it up.
“But they have to be careful… if they push the reform line now it’s not going to get them anywhere”.
It is unlikely that Kim Jong Un will visit China soon, Cathcart concluded, because “the whole point is he hasn’t come because he’s worried about his power back home. He rarely leaves Pyongyang, let alone his country.
“China’s gonna have to swallow its pride yet again and send somebody to try to calm this thing down”.
North Korean state media on Monday said that Jang Song Thaek had been “eliminated” from the party and his group “purged” – for reasons including corruption, factionalism, drug abuse, anti-state activities and womanizing.
The Chinese government’s response came on Monday, too, with China’s foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei saying: “We have noted the relevant situation, (but) that is an internal affair”.
“China will stay committed to maintaining traditionally friendly relations with the DPRK,” he continued.
Picture, Flickr Creative Commons by timquijano
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