Hu Jintao Visits North Korean Embassy as China Backs Kim Jong Un

Chinese President Hu Jintao visited North Korea’s embassy in Beijing today to express condolences for the death of Kim Jong Il, as China backed his son to lead the world’s only Communist hereditary dynasty.

No detail was given about Hu’s visit, which was reported by the official Xinhua News Agency. China believes that North Korea’s people will “remain united and turn their sorrow into strength” under the leadership of the Worker’s Party of Korea and Kim’s son, Kim Jong Un, according to a statement on the Foreign Ministry’s website yesterday.

China is expressing its support for Kim Jong Un to make sure it maintains its influence over the regime in Pyongyang, which is increasingly dependent on China for political and economic support, said Willy Wo-Lap Lam, a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

China will move to “boost links with the North Korean generals in the new Kim Jong Un dynasty,” Lam said. “Beijing will likely promise Pyongyang more generous economic, fuel and technological support in order to shore up the alliance -- and to ensure the pro-China tilt of the post-Kim Jong Il administration.”

North Korea’s economic and political dependence on China, its biggest trading partner, grew under Kim Jong Il. In September, China’s exports of kerosene, a fuel used for heating and cooking, rose to 14,151 tons, the most since April 2009. Two-way trade last year rose to $3.47 billion, a 29 percent gain from 2009, according to Chinese statistics.

“Secure Backer”

Editorials in state-run Chinese newspapers stressed the need for a stable leadership transition, with the Global Times saying China should be “a powerful and secure backer for a smooth transition of power.” The newspaper suggested that high-level Chinese leaders visit the North to maintain “close communication” with its new leadership.

“Pyongyang’s commitment to peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula is in its own interests and best serves its regional responsibilities,” a China Daily editorial.

China accounted for 79 percent of the North’s 2009 international trade, according to the Seoul-based Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency. China provides almost 90 percent of energy imports and 45 percent of the country’s food, according to a July 2009 report by the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations.

China Visits

Kim Jong Il made at least three trips to China in the last two years. Chinese Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang stood at the rostrum on Kim Il Sung square in October 10, 2010 with both Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea and review a military parade.

The night before, tens of thousands of performers in Pyongyang’s May Day Stadium feted Zhou with dancing performers in panda costumes and synchronized placards with slogans such as “without the Communist Party there would be no new China.”

The two countries share an 880-mile (1,415 kilometer) border that a decade ago saw a wave of refugees from North Korea. About 1.78 million ethnic Koreans live on the Chinese side of the border in the provinces of Jilin, Liaoning and Heilongjiang.

— With assistance by Michael Forsythe, and Nick Wadhams

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