Mansudae Korea

Li Zhanshu & PRC Delegation

Li Zhanshu & PRC Delegation

“Kim Jong Un, Chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea, Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the DPRK and Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army, arranged an art performance and a banquet on September 10 for the party and government delegation of the People’s Republic of China led by Li Zhanshu, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and chairman of the Standing Committee of the PRC National People’s Congress, who is a special envoy of Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee and president of the PRC.” – Korean Central News Agency

Li Zhanshu with Chairman Kim Jong Un

Li Zhanshu is a high ranking party official and recently elected in March 2018 to the position of Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. This position is considered the third most powerful position in the country after the President and Premier of the PRC. This makes his visit extraordinarily high-level, and the first visit to the DPRK by a top legislator from China since the degradation of relations throughout 2017.

The chinese delegation were greeted, as part of the 70th anniversary celebrations, with a trip to the Mansudae Art Theatre in central Pyongyang where they witnessed a large art performance. This was soon followed by a banquet to welcome the Chinese dignitaries and it is reported that Chairman Kim Jong Un and Li Zhanshu enjoyed an “amiable chat” with Mr. Li and his delegation.

Mr. Kim & Mr. Li

This visit shows a major thaw in relations between Beijing and Pyongyang which begun to sour in 2017 after China voted in support of major UN sanctions, limiting the ability of the DPRK to export many of their goods and cut their oil imports, most of which flows through China. In the lead up to the Trump-Kim summit, Kim Jong Un met with President Xi twice, once in Beijing and once in Dalian, nothern China which demonstrated a warming relationship. This was confirmed with a third summit in Beijing after the summit and this major delegation’s arrival in Pyongyang shows the willingness of Xi and his government to maintain this mutually beneficial diplomatic relationship into the future. Xi and the PRC at large is the most powerful and influential ally to the government in Pyongyang and the reformation of diplomatic bridges between the states is progress for the North Korean negotiations with the US and South Korea, bolstering it’s position with the support of a major world power.

The visit to the Mansudae theatre was shown to be vitally important to the foreign affairs of the DPRK as many high ranking officials were present, including: Choe Ryong Hae, Pak Kwang Ho, Ri Su Yong, Pak Thae Song, Kim Yo Jong and other members of the SAC and WPK Cent. Committee. The Chinese ambassador and embassy staff were also present with Choe Ryong Hae even delivered the welcoming speech. This action by a high ranking member of the establishment signalling the importance of this meeting. The visit has little impact on the state of affairs in the region, however it displays a clear signal from within the state organs in Pyongyang. China is our ally, and we have reaffirmed that relationship. Tied with the relaxation of sanctions on the DPR Korea by Beijing, this confirmation of a closer relationships could be a sign to Washington that any effort to use Xi and his government to undermine or weaken the North’s negotiation strategy is likely a fruitless endeavour, and the leading regional power has taken a clear side in the East vs. West negotiations.

Benjamin Weston

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