North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jong Un took his first steps onto the international stage Friday when he met with a number of Chinese ambassadors in Pyongyang. This was Kim’s first meeting with foreign dignitaries since he came into power after his father, the late Kim Jong Il, died in December.
The distinguished guest at Friday’s meeting was Wang Jiarui, head of the Communist Party of China’s International Department. China’s Xinhua News reports that Kim and Wang talked economics; they quote Kim as saying: “Developing the economy and improving livelihoods so that the (North) Korean people lead happy and civilized lives is the goal the Workers’ Party is struggling towards.”
Wang met on numerous occasions with North Korea’s departed leader Kim Jong Il, and is a frequent visitor to North Korea. Sino-DPRK relations have been cool but polite in the last two generations of North Korean leadership, and it appears Kim Jong Un will maintain that relationship. According to KCNA, Wang expressed his condolences to the (North) Korean people for their loss of Kim Jong Il, who he described as a close friend and teacher of the Chinese people.
Though his first foreign policy meeting was a tame and predictable one, Kim Jong Un is establishing himself as a public figure both to the international community and his proletariat. His father was often a shrouded enigma to the outside world, only appearing a few times a year to meet with a limited number of foreign dignitaries. Kim Jong Un’s frequent appearances in the public eye may signify that he will be more open to the outside world. He certainly seems at ease with Westerners, as he was recently photographed rubbing shoulders with a British ambassador by the name of Barnaby Jones.
Kim Jong Un is slowly revealing himself on the foreign stage, taking steps away from his father’s sheltered regime. Perhaps these actions reflect a desire for a more open and friendly relationship between North Korea and the rest of the world.