Report: North Korea’s Embassy plays up Xi, Kim friendship with photos

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June 2 (UPI) — The North Korean Embassy in Beijing swapped out photos of former leader Kim Jong Il with more pictures of Kim Jong Un visiting China in 2018.

The embassy’s display case of photographs that hangs on its outside wall includes 26 photographs of Kim’s visits to China in March, May and June of 2018. The images replaced those of Kim’s father, according to South Korean newspaper Seoul Economic Daily Wednesday.

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The latest display has photographs of Kim meeting with Xi Jinping in China. The two leaders are seen shaking hands, holding summits and engaging each other over a luncheon with their spouses.

The North Korean Embassy’s display case has often served as a barometer of bilateral relations. In March 2020, Yonhap reported the embassy began to redisplay landmark meetings between Kim and Xi, including Kim’s summit with Xi in January 2019.

Some of the photos of Xi had been taken down after a collapsed U.S.-North Korea summit in Hanoi and Pyongyang’s position hardened against the United States.

The two countries have publicly displayed their friendship in recent months. On May 7, Song Tao, head of the International Liaison Department of the Chinese Communist Party, attended the reception of a photo exhibit at the North Korean Embassy commemorating the three-year anniversary of Kim’s second visit to China.

North Korea relies heavily on China for trade. Ri Ryong Nam, a North Korean trade negotiator and Pyongyang’s top envoy to Beijing, met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Thursday, according to images released by Beijing the next day.

Wang, who has supported “parallel progress in denuclearization” on the Korean Peninsula, last week highlighted a friendship with Pyongyang “formed by the hardened blood shed together during a joint fight against external aggression,” a reference to the 1950-53 Korean War.

Xi played a key role in 2019, relaying messages from Kim to South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Xi told Moon at the time that Kim is willing to denuclearize.