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Keeping quiet on Kim

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James Reynolds | 11:17 UK time, Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Is North Korea's leader Kim Jong-il sick? Would the Chinese government - a neighbour and ally of North Korea - tell us if it knew anything about his health?

Kim Jong-ilWe tried to find out at a regularly scheduled foreign ministry briefing held here in Beijing (briefings are held twice a week at the foreign ministry's headquarters).

The briefings are well-organised events. You go through a metal detector and take a seat in an auditorium decorated with plants. In case you get bored before the spokesperson steps onto the stage, there's some piped music for you to listen to (in the most recent briefing we enjoyed a subdued acoustic version of "Under the Boardwalk" followed by "The Sounds of Silence").

The spokesperson came out and was asked three times about Kim Jong-il's health...

Question One: "Can you comment on reports that Chinese doctors treated Kim Jong-il after he reportedly collapsed on August 22? Can you comment on his health?"
Foreign Ministry: "I have no information on that."

Question Two: "Has the Chinese government actually spoken to Kim Jong-il to pass on its best wishes for the 60th anniversary of the founding of North Korea? If not, when was the last time the Chinese government spoke to Kim Jong-il?"
Foreign Ministry: "The two countries have maintained friendly exchanges, frequent co-ordination and communication."

Question Three: "There are reports that Kim Jong-il is ill. Can you comment?"
Foreign Ministry: "I have not heard of that."

(The answers were given in Chinese. The English versions above are from the official English interpretation provided at the briefing).

So, if the Chinese government does know anything about Kim Jong-il and his health, it's decided - for now at least - not to speculate about it in public.


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  • 1. At 11:54am on 10 Sep 2008, sheriffCartman wrote:


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  • 2. At 12:58pm on 10 Sep 2008, zickyyy wrote:

    I hope the speculation is true! If this evil dies, there will be a chance for North Korea to open up and develop as what happened in China 30 years ago.

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  • 3. At 3:24pm on 10 Sep 2008, onjournalism wrote:

    There were much more broadcast scenes concerning Kim Jong-il and his dictatorial, outrageous behaviour in Japan.

    The Japanese are therefore very well informed how suffocating and miserable people's life in North Korea is, thanks to the Japanese mass media which serves much more often as the watchdog than as the servant of the Japanese state.

    It is time for the Chinese communist leaders not to bury their heads again in the sand, for the sake of ordinary Korean people who suffer a great deal under Kim's tyranny and oppression.

    Fire cann't be wrapped up in fire.

    Many ordinary Chinese people, especially those living in North China, already know, albeit silently. They detest Kim and feel great sympathy for their counterparts in North Korea.

    The Chinese government should stop behaving like 'a big brother behind scene' without good reasons.

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  • 4. At 4:17pm on 10 Sep 2008, antimatterbomb wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 5. At 4:18pm on 10 Sep 2008, Red Lenin wrote:

    Does anyone outside of Pyong-Yang really care?

    If he is ill, the Chinese will treat him. If he dies, the Chinese will, behind the scenes, pick his successor.

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  • 6. At 4:21pm on 10 Sep 2008, hughye wrote:

    well, dear James, do u think it's plausible to ask the highest secret of North Korea from just an ordinary press of China's foreign affair department? don't u think it's kind of ridiculous?

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  • 7. At 5:17pm on 10 Sep 2008, Walsh of Wembley wrote:

    This forum is an absoulte pleasure to read without Londonlurker enforcing his absolute truth on everyone else.

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  • 8. At 5:17pm on 10 Sep 2008, Walsh of Wembley wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 9. At 5:19pm on 10 Sep 2008, ccpbrain wrote:

    We are losing our closest friends too fast: the Fatherly Leader Kim Il-Sung, the lone bright lantern in the dark Europe, Albania's Enver Hoxha, our most loyal ally and authentic student Pol Pot of Cambodia. We also counted Romania's Nicolae Ceausescu and Yugoslavia's Tito our spiritual bed fellows.

    Castro is not looking very good either.

    We CCP express our deep concern, and our deepest condolence if he's really dying, to the North Korea people.

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  • 10. At 5:20pm on 10 Sep 2008, zickyyy wrote:

    Re: onjournalism

    It seems that, in your opinion, the Chinese government is supporting Kim's dictatorship?

    China has played a very positive role with the North Korean issue. China knows the problem cannot be solved by force or by threatening and has been working hard to seek more meaningful ways.

    Instead of showing your ignorance here, do actually you have any meaningful and practical suggestions with regard to how China could do better?

    Some people like you just blindly blame China for everything! You should instead blame the US and UK for why they don't send troops to get rid of Kim and save Korea people!

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  • 11. At 5:35pm on 10 Sep 2008, TaiyuanRen wrote:

    Aren't we having the most shameless spoke persons ever lived in the universe?

    They tell nothing but lies.

    Still remember the State Council spokesman Yuan Mu's declarations in the Spring of 1989:

    - China never have media censorship. All news agencies are the responsibility of the chief editors: they decide what to publish!

    - I am responsibly telling you: there is no single casualty in the Tiananmen square in the night of 6/4.

    They can swear the coal is white and 1.3 billion of us would believe it in our hearts. That's how good they are.

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  • 12. At 7:33pm on 10 Sep 2008, MartinFang wrote:

    hahaha, data protection, the Chinese say. or they could have been sued by the North Koreans.

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  • 13. At 1:34pm on 11 Sep 2008, edomaghly wrote:

    He is the only Korean who has not claimed many ofl the Chineses inventions and traditions were oringinally by the Korean.

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  • 14. At 2:35pm on 11 Sep 2008, Peter_Sym wrote:

    Its worth reminding the world that when Stalin had his 'stroke' courtesy of Beria the world wasn't told for 6 months after he died.

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  • 15. At 2:39pm on 11 Sep 2008, grandsaracen wrote:

    His bouffant looks a bit thin in that picture, maybe a secret team of top Chinese hairdressers are fluffing it back up behind the scenes.

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  • 16. At 9:16pm on 11 Sep 2008, onjournalism wrote:

    To: 10* Zickyyy

    Thanks for your comments.

    I am not blaming the whole China; I am only talking about a small minority of political leaders who could do better than keeping quiet on Kim. For example, they could use their political and economic clout to put more pressure on Kim to help improve the living standard of his people--not Kim's own luxury life, of course.

    I believe many of our parents generation already know very well how things could be terribly wrong in the past if we Chinese, by which I mean 'ordinary people', just followed whatever was told to be true by the politicians.

    Politicians everywhere are similar; they try to impose ideologies onto the commoners and compete for ideological legitimacy on the international stage. That is why I personally don't like foreigners who criticise the entire China by resorting to 'democracy' or 'freedom'.

    There is an espionage movie called 'The Company', a story about the ideological fight beteween communism and capitalism during the Cold War. I particularly like the ending where the leading protagonist, a US spy, is confused whether his side represents good or bad guys. His superior then tells him that what is important is that they won the game--a political game between a small number of 'great thinkers' which resulted in a great number of innocent lives and sufferrings.

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  • 17. At 09:10am on 12 Sep 2008, I_love_China wrote:

    Truth will out.
    it's just a matter of time.
    let's wait and see.

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  • 18. At 4:07pm on 14 Sep 2008, thisisacryforhelp wrote:

    top of the top secrets in a secret state.

    The Chinese foreign ministry seems now have a unique taste for music! Supposedly it should have played hymns produced by the military "joy divisions" (or the art troups, depends on whichever interpretation you prefer).

    like ie, "I have not heard of that"

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  • 19. At 09:03am on 15 Sep 2008, ApratimMukherjee wrote:

    China will never answer this question for two reasons:
    1)Communist countries want to have cordial relationships with each other.
    2)If they give the answer,they will have no answer to the question how do they know that..(by whispers of North Koreans comming in China)
    Kim Jong-il is ill or fine can only be known through DPRK's two neighbours-South Korea and Russia(they also border DPRK).
    Japan is a good source.
    For citizens of DPRK,Pyongyang must fall and current government should go...
    China will never help.Has a Chinese helped a person ever?

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  • 20. At 10:35am on 15 Sep 2008, endyjai wrote:

    "I am responsibly telling you: there is no single casualty in the Tiananmen square in the night of 6/4."

    Weren't all/most of the casualties out of the square anyway?

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