Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, who arrived Tuesday, is the first foreign minister from Beijing to visit the North in five years. The visit is seen as bolstering the push for a third round of six-nation talks on the North's nuclear programs, as efforts to organize working level groups hang in limbo.

As Pyongyang's last major ally, China has taken on the role of host and coordinator of the meetings.
Was anything accomplished? Hard to tell from the AP report. Of course the diplomats emphasized the significance of the trip in typical empty diplomatese:
Before Li departed for Pyongyang, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Kong Quan described the trip as a "very important contact between our two sides."
And it is always reassuring to know that the really important stuff was taken care of:
Li's delegation toured a Pyongyang street market, laid flowers at a statue of national founder Kim Il Sung and met various North Korean dignitaries in a "warm atmosphere," according to the North Korea's official KCNA news agency.
I don't know that a tour of a street market was standard foreign visitor fare all that long ago. The Reuters report on the visit reads more of the KCNA and has a little detail to add:
KCNA also said China's top diplomat and his delegation also visited a market on Pyongyang's Thongil street.

North Korea has recently allowed trade in goods at market prices in a departure from rigid communist central planning that analysts say could herald broader economic reforms following the pattern that China pioneered in the 1980s.

"Being briefed on the management of the market, they went round the market with keen interest," KCNA said. "After inspection the foreign minister said he had deep impressions of the well-furnished market."
"Deep impressions?" Perhaps along the lines of "this looks like Sichuan circa 1981."

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