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China welcomes Kim Yong-il

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James Reynolds | 11:59 UK time, Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Kim Yong-il of North Korea is in China.

Kim Yong IlNews of his visit generated quite a bit of excitement when it was first announced. North Korea's leader rarely travels outside his own country. No-one knows much about his exact state of health. And he's about to launch a rocket.

But then we read the name more carefully: Kim Yong-il. Not Kim Jong-il.

North Korea's ultimate leader (Jong with a J) is still at home in Pyongyang. Here in Beijing, we've been treated to a visit by North Korea's premier (Yong with a Y).

Kim Yong-il has come to celebrate 60 years of diplomatic relations between North Korea and China. The two states are neighbours and trading partners. Recent history shows that North Korea tends to plough its own course in the world, without spending huge amounts of time listening to others. But many believe that when China talks, North Korea has to listen.

China argues that it has worked patiently to end North Korea's isolation. Since 2003, China has hosted several rounds of diplomatic talks here in Beijing aimed at persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions. But those negotiations - called the Six Party talks - have yet to achieve any kind of lasting breakthrough -diplomatic speak for "they're stuck".

In April, North Korea says that it will launch a communications satellite. Other countries - led by the United States - believe that this may be cover for a long-range missile test.

Kim Yong-il's visit to Beijing comes just weeks before this launch. It may be the best chance yet for North Korea to explain to outsiders exactly what it's planning to do.

Of course, Kim Yong-il hasn't given anything away during his public events here in China. I've just come back from the Great Hall of the People where I watched him attend an official welcome ceremony.

Wen Jiabao and Kim Yong-il inspect Chinese troopsKim Yong Il was greeted at the front door by China's Premier Wen Jiabao. The two exchanged three hugs - probably standard premier-to-premier protocol.

The two men then listened to their national anthems and walked along a red carpet to inspect a guard of honour. Wen Jiabao turned his head towards the troops. Kim Yong-il's peripheral vision must be acute - since he was able to inspect the troops to his left without ever needing to turn his head.

The two then led their delegations into a formal reception/negotiating room (the kind with a table the size of an aircraft carrier). After a few photos, the media was escorted out. And the talks began.

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  • 1. At 1:01pm on 18 Mar 2009, XunFang wrote:

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

  • 2. At 1:45pm on 18 Mar 2009, tclim38 wrote:

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

  • 3. At 5:07pm on 18 Mar 2009, newsjock wrote:

    Oh Dear ! the first two comments have been moderated out.

    Will I fair any better?

    It's good to have a friend, especially when the rest of the world seems predominantly agin you.

    North Korea must value a positive relationship with China, particularly as both tend to disregard some aspects of world opinion.

    In some ways North Korea must savour this accord, in the same way that the UK likes to think it is walking hand-in-hand with the US of A.

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  • 4. At 5:28pm on 18 Mar 2009, ktwar2009 wrote:

    N.Korea is that odd kid in the class room that no body likes and some are nervous of. China is the only person the odd kid would talk to and no one else. Sanctions and embargoes isolate and harden a nation the same way ostracizing a kid produce anti-social behavior.

    The Six-Party talk led by China is really the best option we have to work out differences with N.Korea. Its no surprise that N.Korea talks to China and spits at the US.

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  • 5. At 8:23pm on 18 Mar 2009, beijing_ren wrote:

    oooooer nice new profile pic JR. v rugged

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  • 6. At 10:54pm on 18 Mar 2009, niiknn wrote:

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

  • 7. At 11:42pm on 18 Mar 2009, dennisjunior1 wrote:

    James Reynolds:
    That is excellent news for Kim Yong I(L) visit to the Chinese Capital and having meetings and visiting his colleagues in the government of China...

    Question? What will be the topics on the table for discussion during The Leader of North Korea visit to China...

    ~Dennis Junior~

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  • 8. At 00:00am on 19 Mar 2009, dennisjunior1 wrote:

    James:
    Who is Kim Yong Il. Not Kim Jong Il., in your blog...What is affiliation in North Korea Political System...

    ~Dennis Junior~

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  • 9. At 08:38am on 19 Mar 2009, Isenhorn wrote:

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

  • 10. At 09:08am on 19 Mar 2009, heyone wrote:

    The CCP has a habit of sponsoring inhumane regimes. Zimbabwe and North Korea are just two examples. I wonder, how many are actually proud of their ruling party allying with Kim, who wants to develop nuclear weapons while people are surviving on food aid?

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  • 11. At 10:04am on 19 Mar 2009, Bobsy26 wrote:

    Man, I wasn't even aware that Kim Yong Il and Kim Jong Il were seperate people! I'm sure many others around the world and especially here in the west, are the same.

    As for the visit, well, for starters it doesn't exactly reassure that Kim Jong Il is alive or even in particularly good health (if reassurance is what you're after), does it?

    What China is in a position to do here is act as a mediator between North Korea and the USA. Even if neither side is interested in a dialogue, only good can come of China acting as interpretor for the both of them. Wishful thinking perhaps, but it's a definate possibility. Anything that can help NK to become less isolationary and more willing to engage with the rest of the world would be a good start.

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  • 12. At 10:39am on 19 Mar 2009, Isenhorn wrote:

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

  • 13. At 1:13pm on 19 Mar 2009, XunFang wrote:

    Hope this comment gets posted, I don't think I broke any house rules.

    Isolation never solves any problem. China knows from experience.
    At least N Korea is still willing to communicate, even though it's not USA or UK that they have choosen, this is still a positive sign.
    The west will start panic if N Korea choose to be isolated from the rest of the world. Speculation and uncertainties creats tension.
    These talks may have positive impact. People should not always jump to conclusions.
    BTW
    James, something else next time. please, no more politics.

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  • 14. At 1:32pm on 19 Mar 2009, aeroarchie wrote:

    #10 heyone

    North Korea is just one of the 200 or so countries having diplomatic ties with China. Former US president Jimmy Carter and other US officials were in Beijing recently to celebrate 30 years of diplomatic ties between the US and China. Many countries including China, South Korea, USA, Russia, etc give aid to North Korea. China gives aid to many other countries, especially those in Africa, besides North Korea.

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  • 15. At 1:50pm on 19 Mar 2009, thisisacryforhelp wrote:

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

  • 16. At 2:21pm on 19 Mar 2009, davidwhite44 wrote:

    Scraping the barrel with this one a little. Here are some ideas for future entries: 1. Chinese saving habits. People there generally save half of their salary. How do they spend the rest? What are they saving for? 2. Housing: is the traditional way of buying a house outright with cash being replaced with mortgage based lending? 3. Guanxi or 'personal relations' which affect every level of Chinese society. 4. Studying abroad. Most of your UK readers probably came here to study a Masters. Is this merely a route to get to the west or does the qualification have any value in China?

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  • 17. At 2:26pm on 19 Mar 2009, freechina wrote:

    Keep up the good work James!

    My heart goes out to you James; your blogs are varied, concise and refreshing - keep it up! Unfortunately, it seems the majority of those people posting comments are simply unable to appreciate this; intsead they are far too obsessed with the idea that you are defaming their glorious/spotless/can't do any wrong China. Can a person be said to be baised if what they write reflects the Truth? James - don't let the few detractors wear you down - that is what they would love to see!

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  • 18. At 3:47pm on 19 Mar 2009, davidwhite44 wrote:

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

  • 19. At 4:05pm on 19 Mar 2009, Bobsy26 wrote:

    #14 aeroarchie:

    Playing Devil's Advocate a little here, but I think the point to take away from Heyone's comment is that China has a stronger track record of dealing with nations that others won't. Which is a) understandable and b) no bad thing. For a), China's a developing power, going through considerable changes in its role in the international community. For b), well, as myself and others have observed, it'd be far worse for nations like North Korea to face total isolation.

    What's important to figure out is if China actually shows any real support for North Korea. While their actual governments are obviously quite different, they are still united in some ways, if only by the word "communist".

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  • 20. At 4:53pm on 19 Mar 2009, ktwar2009 wrote:

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

  • 21. At 6:27pm on 19 Mar 2009, beijing_2008 wrote:

    #17

    How terrible that we should have the audacity to actually support China!

    Should we just keep quiet and let the unrelenting China-negative-news (acronym intended) keep on coming without any questioning of its editorial independence or ulterior motive?

    Constructive criticism of China by foreign journalists is absolutely welcome. But selective reporting is not the same as reporting the "truth".

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  • 22. At 7:57pm on 19 Mar 2009, shanshuiii wrote:

    North Korean is just a tool of China, there is no doubt, it is a buffer zone against Japan and US, but also a dangerous bomb to China herself.

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  • 23. At 12:43pm on 20 Mar 2009, aeroarchie wrote:

    #19 Bobsy26

    "......China has a strong track record of dealing with nations that others won't."

    Don't take the West as "others" or the rest of the world.

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  • 24. At 4:39pm on 20 Mar 2009, Bobsy26 wrote:

    #22 shanshuiii

    Actually there is plenty of doubt. Personally I think China sees NK as an unstable and potentially incendiary neighbour who could cause China/US tensions to go down a very bad route due to their connections. It would make sense that they keen to "manage" NK in this way.

    #23 aeroarchie

    Well, I didn't. But aside from China, and of course "the west", who else deals with North Korea? Very few nations, I think (but please enlighten me if I'm wrong). Venezuela? Chavez does love to take an opposite stance to America on principle. Cuba (quite likely)? Russia may do perhaps, but I wouldn't count on it being in any major way, or especially warmly. Kim Jong-Il's keeness to isolate NK from the international community at large doesn't need justifying or defending I think - it doesn't reflect on China.

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  • 25. At 6:14pm on 20 Mar 2009, EWONGNL wrote:


    This Kim dude looks even sharper than the No.2 of CCP that James you just wrote about not long ago.

    That's what I call Look to Kill.

    I feel sorry for normal North Koreans.

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  • 26. At 03:17am on 22 Mar 2009, bionicanchovy wrote:

    >10. At 09:08am on 19 Mar 2009, heyone wrote:

    >The CCP has a habit of sponsoring inhumane regimes. Zimbabwe and North Korea are just two examples. I wonder, how many are actually proud of their ruling party allying with Kim, who wants to develop nuclear weapons while people are surviving on food aid?

    you are strange. do you want north koreans will starve to death without this 'sponsoring inhumane regimes'? do you think this is humane?

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  • 27. At 00:00am on 23 Mar 2009, ita wrote:

    Kim Yong-Il is coming to ask for a bit of money, as did Hillary Clinton a few weeks ago.

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