Chinese official visits North Korea to show support for Pyongyang

December 9, 2010

By Chico Harlan, The Washington Post

According to the North Korean account, Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo conveyed a greeting from President Hu Jintao and presented Kim with a gift, reinforcing the cozy Pyongyang-Beijing relationship that has drawn recent criticism from the United States and other nations involved in the six party talks aboutNorth Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

Since North Korea’s deadly artillery attack on a South Korean island last month, top officials in Washington have described China as an enabler for Pyongyang’s aggressions– providing aid but little influence, calling for peace on the Korean peninsula but rarely condemning the North’s behavior.

China’s Xinhua news agency described the Kim-Dai meeting as “candid,” saying the two “reached consensus on bilateral relations.”

A team of U.S. diplomats, led by Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, plans to visit China next week, in part to convey a message of concern to Beijing. “It is critically important that China continue to play a strong role making clear to North Korea that there are consequences for its actions,” Steinberg said on Tuesday.

(On Wednesday, U.S. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, urged China to use its influence over North Korea to signal disapproval of the North’s activities.)

As Kim and Dai held their meeting Thursday, North Korea also issued its first detailed rationale for the Nov. 23 attack on Yeonpyeong Island, questioning the disputed maritime border and claiming the water that surrounds the island as its own.

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