North Koreans all over the country are sharing their opinions about Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first visit to North Korea as state TV and print media spread information about the summit.
North Korean state media said the Xi’s visit has been met with “great enthusiasm” on the ground and as “a new, indelible page in [Sino-North Korean] history.” But North Koreans living on the Sino-North Korean border have attitudes toward the summit that contrast with these accolades.
North Koreans hope that the summit will bring an increase in cross-border trade given the country’s economic difficulties due to international sanctions; however, many remind themselves that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un failed to gain much from his four visits to China over the past year.
North Korean officials also appear to still be in shock about the “no deal” that occurred in Hanoi [between the US and North Korea].
One law enforcement official in Ryanggang Province told the Daily NK on June 20, “Most people in my position don’t expect much [from the Sino-North Korean summit].”
“Many officials think that Kim Jong Un’s Vietnam summit showed that North Korea shouldn’t trust any country, including the US and China,” he said.
Officials appear focused on protecting their pride as a result of the North Korean leadership’s non-stop calls for self-sufficiency.
“Our military power has allowed us to speak freely to big countries such as China and the US, even though we are a small country,” the official continued, adding that “nothing will come from the summit if China doesn’t acknowledge our military power.”
The major focuses of North Koreans living in the Sino-North Korean border region, meanwhile, are “aid” and smuggling.” Residents hope for rice aid from the Chinese given that “rice prices seem to be rising” and for the loosening of Chinese crackdowns on smuggling over the border.
Many North Koreans in the region, however, say they do not expect much from the Chinese. The reason? Defections.
“North Koreans talk about how the Chinese repatriate some of our countrymen back to the country and say that the ‘Chinese are untrustworthy,’” said a farmer in North Hamgyong Province. “China is sending all those people who crossed the border [defectors] back.”
The farmer continued, saying that China’s forcible repatriation of defectors contrasts with how North Korea dealt with Chinese people who came over the border during the Chinese Cultural Revolution.
“We didn’t force them to go back,” he pointed out.
He further noted that the while the visit Chinese leader is giving hope to people suffering “from the lack of food because it could mean that China will provide food aid,” many people living in the border regions “don’t view the visit in the favorable light because of how the Chinese treat defectors.”