VP visits Pyongyang for 60th truce anniversary

Updated: 2013-07-25 02:26

By Li Xiaokun and Zhou Wa (China Daily)

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4-day trip seen to show importance China places on friendship with DPRK

Vice-President Li Yuanchao is traveling to Pyongyang on Thursday to attend commemoration ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the Korean War (1950-53) armistice.

The four-day trip is the highest-ranking visit from Beijing since Kim Jong-un, the top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, took office in late 2011.

VP visits Pyongyang for 60th truce anniversary

Veterans of the Korean War (1950-53) from across the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea arrive in Pyongyang on Tuesday as the country prepares to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of the war, on Saturday. PHOTO BY JON CHOI-JIN / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Observers said the visit shows the importance China attaches to ties with the DPRK.

On Wednesday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei confirmed the visit by Li and a Chinese delegation on the ministry's website.

The four-day visit by Li, who is also a member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, was at the invitation of the DPRK, Hong said.

The last visit by a Chinese leader to the DPRK was in October 2010. Zhou Yongkang, then a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, led a delegation to attend celebrations for the 65th anniversary of the foundation of the Workers' Party of Korea.

Zhou met then DPRK leader Kim Jong-il four times during his three-day visit.

That was seen as a reflection of the close ties between the neighbors and the value the DPRK placed on the relationship.

Li's visit sends a message that the new generation of Chinese leaders also highly values the traditional friendship between China and the DPRK, said Gong Yuzhen, a professor of international studies at Peking University.

It also shows China cherishes the hard-won peace after the Korean War, during which more than 100,000 Chinese soldiers died, he added.

"The main purpose of Li's visit is to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the signing of the armistice truce," Gong said, adding that issues concerning bilateral ties will also be discussed.

"The DPRK nuclear issue may also be touched upon at an appropriate moment, but it is not the top priority of the visit."

A special envoy Kim Jong-un sent to Beijing in late May said the DPRK is willing to take China's advice to engage in dialogue on the Korean Peninsula issue.

Director of the Korean People's Army's General Political Bureau Choe Ryong-hae, the envoy, was the first special envoy Kim sent to China after taking office. Choe delivered a handwritten letter from Kim to President Xi Jinping.

Seoul-based Yonhap News Agency quoted analysts as saying Li's trip may be a reciprocal move.

Shi Yuanhua, director of the Center for Korean Studies at the Institute of International Studies of Fudan University in Shanghai, said the visit shows China values its relations with both the Republic of Korea and the DPRK.

China warmly received ROK President Park Geun-hye during her visit to China in June.

"The China-DPRK friendship, forged during the war, lays the foundation of the brotherly relations till today," Shi said.

Mass games and other festivities marking the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War, which falls on July 27, have drawn many tourists and diplomats. Reuters said the DPRK has also made a rare move to invite foreign journalists.

The DPRK's Korean Central News Agency said Pyongyang has launched a new run of its large-scale Arirang performance to mark the anniversary.

The Guinness Book of World Records recognized Arirang, which usually involves up to 100,000 performers, as the world's largest gymnastics display in 2007.

The show has a "China Chapter" to celebrate China-DPRK friendship.

Pyongyang said in February there will also be a large-scale military review, among other celebrations.

Yonhap said earlier this month that, based on the scale of preparations, the military review will be the largest in the DPRK's history in terms of troops and equipment.