China has delivered a powerful snub to North Korea at events commemorating the end of the Second World War in Beijing,underlining the deep rift that now exists between the two erstwhile allies.
At the grand 70th anniversary events on Thursday, Choe Ryong-hae, a senior North Korean official dispatched as Kim Jong-un’s personal representative, was refused even a brief meeting with Xi Jinping, the Chinese president.
And while he was forced to return to Pyongyang empty-handed just hours after the extravagant parade of China’s latest military hardware, Beijing made a show of welcoming Park Geun-hye, the South Korean president, for a three-day state visit that included one-on-one talks between the two leaders.
Mrs Park was also given a prime seat on the dais in Tiananmen Square to watch the march-past, a position that was formerly reserved for North Korea’s representatives.
Mr Choe was relegated to the far end of the section reserved for dignitaries, indicating just how far North Korea has fallen from favour in China.
“The relationship between China and North Korea has always been a delicate one, but Beijing has come to see the regime in Pyongyang as increasingly troublesome in recent years”, said Go Ito, a professor of international relations at Tokyo’s Meiji University.
“And it has become more difficult since Kim Jong-un came to power”, he added.
Mr Kim inherited the leadership of North Korea after the death of his father in December 2011 and has been blamed for a series of provocations since then.
Ignoring heavy hints from Beijing that it would be displeased at a third nuclear test, North Korea carried out a test detonation in February 2013.
More recently, an exchange of artillery fire across the border that divides North and South dramatically raised tensions, with Beijing making it clear that it perceived Pyongyang as being at fault for the escalating crisis.
Beijing has attempted to raise the pressure on Pyongyang, including by halting exports of much-needed fuel oil over the border. But North Korea has refused to buckle. Instead, it has increasingly looked to Russia for assistance.
Last year, Russia announced that it was cancelling $10 billion of North Korea’s $11 billion debt, while Russian investors have also agreed to sink $25 billion into the North’s decrepit railway system. The two governments more recently announced that Russia is to rebuild the North’s power grid, while the two countries are developing the port of Rason for exports of Russian coal.
Moscow is equally keen to win new friends after the Ukraine crisis dramatically reduced the number of countries in the West willing to do business with Vladimir Putin’s regime.
By JULIAN RYALL, September 4 in the Telegraph