A North Korean delegation to China appears to have been gently snubbed ahead of a meeting Friday with Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to one regional analyst, who say the visitors' treatment is part of Beijing's effort to reign in its troublesome, isolated and poverty stricken neighbor.
"Their message [to Pyongyang] is to concentrate more on economic development and stop making trouble in North East Asia," said former senior military intelligence analyst and veteran Korea-watcher John McCreary.
Vice Marshal Choe Ryong-Hae — who, as director of the Korean People's Army General Political Department, is the North Korean military's chief ideologue — visited Beijing this week as a "special envoy" from Pyongyang's third-generation hereditary dictator Kim Jong-Un. He was accompanied by a bevy of other high-ranking military figures and two senior officials from the foreign ministry.
Friday, Mar. Choe met Mr. Xi, and gave him a handwritten letter from Mr. Kim, according to official media in Beijing. Mar. Choe told Mr. Xi Pyongyang would accede to Chinese calls for the re-opening of nuclear disarmament discussions through the so-called Six Party peace process —- multinational talks aimed at denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang walked out of the talks in 2008 and their willing willingness to return to them is being interpreted as a victory for Chinese efforts to defuse tensions between North Korea and the United States and its allies in the region.
Wang Junsheng, a Korea analyst at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the New York Times that Mar. Chioe's visit could be interpreted as a "kind of apology" by North Korea for its recent behavior in testing a nuclear device and putting the nation on a war footing during joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises.
Mar. Choe's meeting with Mr. Xi followed two days during which he was lectured by Chinese military officials — who are generally among those in the Beijing leadership most sympathetic to North Korea, Mr. McCreary told The Washington Times.
Gen. Fan Chonglong, vice chairman of China's powerful Central Military Commission, was reported by normally deferential official news agencies as having warned Mar. Choe Friday against "jeopardizing peace" on the peninsula.
"In recent years, the state of affairs around the Korean peninsula nuclear issue frequently turns into one escalation of tensions after another," Xinhua state news agency quoted Gen. Fan as saying. "The conflicting strategies of all parties have intensified, jeopardizing peace," he added.
On Thursday, the vice marshal was taken to tour the Beijing Economic and Technological Development Area — a high tech industrial park that will become the center of one of Beijing's new satellite techno-cities. Chinese television showed pictures of him and the rest of the delegation examining an architect's model of the model of the District.
"That has nothing to do with his job," said Mr. McCreary, of the vice marshal. He said the none-too subtle message was that North Korea should concentrate on economic development and "stop making trouble."
"That has been the Chinese message for years and years," said Mr. McCreary, now with K-Force Government Solutions, Inc. Beijing has long believed that Pyongyang "should abandon this Juche nonsense" — the ideology of economic autarky and communist self-reliance authored by North Korea's founder Kim Il-Sung — "and follow the Chinese model of economic development" through market liberalization, he said.
He said he did not buy the idea that North Korea was a Chinese proxy, or that China was secretly encouraging Pyongyang's provocations to keep the United States off balance.
"The Chinese military may see some value in North Korean obstreperousness, but they are not driving this train," he said of Chinese policy. He added the civilian leadership was interested in the economic possibilities that opening up North Korean markets presented. "It's a market, and it's a route to the Sea of Japan," he said.
Chinese policy was "not just ideological, it's highly pragmatic." he said. Beijing saw Pyongyang as "a net drain on China," a country that "hasn't been able to feed itself since 1988," and "won't help themselves."
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