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Hu finds in Pyongyang a dictator he can like
Paul Lin

Chinese President Hu Jintao visited North Korea at the end of last month -- his first trip there since becoming president. Earlier, at the Fifth Plenum of the 15th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Hu was placed at a disadvantage and failed to achieve much of what he had hoped. But his three-day North Korean visit was rewarded with good results.

First, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il went to Pyongyang's airport to welcome Hu on his arrival, and to see him off at his departure. Upon his arrival, in particular, Hu was gratified by the thousands of North Koreans who staged a carefully choreographed welcome as his motorcade headed into the capital, even stepping out of his vehicle on four occasions to express his thanks.

In China, Hu has never had such an elaborate welcome, and in his recent visits to the US and Canada, he did not dare to get out of his car, for fear of protesters.

Second, at a closed-door family party, Kim arranged for Hu to meet his second son and heir apparent Kim Jong-chol. Some people regarded Kim Jong-il's move as carrying the implication of entrusting his child to a friend before his death. He must regard Hu as a friend, for he would not act in this way otherwise.

Third, on the first day of Hu's visit, he won a pledge from Kim Jong-il that North Korea would take part in the next round of six-nation talks on its nuclear program, due to take place this month. Kim's cooperation allows Hu to claim credit for pushing forward the six-party talks and convince the US that China is not shielding North Korea over its nuclear program.

Of course, the goodwill that Hu received in North Korea was not free. According to Japanese news reports, the price was US$2 billion. When Hu visited the UN in September, he promised US$10 billion to relieve poverty around the world. The US$2 billion is probably in addition to the sum promised the UN, and comes under the heading of expenses for the international communist movement.

Over the past half century, China has given North Korea tens of billions of dollars in aid, so what is another US$2 billion? That China is using the hard-earned money of its people to support a foreign dictator can at best be called "a policy of creating prosperity in neighboring nations."

But at a time when China has countless millions living in poverty, this aid to its neighbors goes under the heading of the "international spirit of the proletariat." During the Qing Dynasty, a similar policy was called "giving to foreign friends rather than domestic slaves."

From an international perspective, the relationship between China and North Korea, if not like that between a father and son, is at least that of a superior and a junior. In other words, China is able to direct North Korea.

So if North Korea makes a nuisance of itself, the US can look to China for redress. If China is unable to solve the problem, then it will clearly indicate the relationship between the two countries has gone sour.

The problem is that after Hu and Kim met on Oct. 28, North Korea's official news agency, KCNA, immediately issued an editorial stating that the US had violated the spirit of the six-party talks. The editorial accused the US of fabricating human rights violations to put pressure on North Korea, and said that such actions voided past agreements.

This suggests that Hu and Kim are collaborating to create difficulties for the next round of six-party talks. The US should be prepared for this.

Paul Lin is a commentator based in New York.

TRANSLATED BY LIN YA-TI and Ian Bartholomew

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