North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visited the graves of Chinese soldiers who joined the Korean War 70 years ago, Pyongyang’s state media said on Thursday in an apparent show of reverence for the historical ties between the two communist allies.
“Comrade Kim Jong-un visited the cemetery of Chinese soldiers in Hoechang County of South Pyongyan Province around the 70th anniversary of their participation in the war and paid tribute to the patriots,” the North’s Korean Central News Agency said on Thursday.
After a moment of silent tribute, Kim laid flowers at the tomb of Mao Anying, the eldest son of Mao Zedong, the founder of communist China, according to the North’ mouthpiece.
Mao Anying, who fought on the communist Koreans’ side, died during the war.
“The red blood of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army troops who boldly fought without fear of death to destroy imperialist invaders was shed all over our homeland,” Kim was quoted as saying by KCNA.
“We will never forget their noble souls and spirit of self-sacrifice.”
Kim also stressed that the “heroic achievements” of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army who supported communist North Korea against the US “remain in vivid memory of the North Korean people.”
He went on to emphasize the meaning of the alliance between the two communist nations, saying the Chinese army “made historical contributions to the victory of the war for the liberation of the homeland.”
The war began as North Korea invaded South Korea in June 1950, and unofficially ended in an armistice in July 1953.
In 2012, North Korea remodeled the cemetery of Chinese soldiers in Hoechang, where the Chinese volunteer army headquarters was located during the war.
Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a basket of flowers to the cemetery on the day of Kim’s visit, and the Chinese ambassador to Pyongyang attended the flower-laying ceremony in which dozens of Pyongyang’s top officials accompanied Kim, according to KCNA.
Kim had visited the Chinese soldiers’ cemetery in 2013 and 2018 on the 60th and 65th anniversaries of the Korean War Armistice, respectively.
In July 2015, Kim sent a wreath to the cemetery in an apparent gesture of reconciliation amid strained relations with China.
Friendly ties with China, North Korea’s longtime ally and biggest trading partner, have become more important to Pyongyang this year as the destitute country suffers from COVID-19, damages caused by floods and prolonged economic sanctions.
China, in the midst of an escalating conflict with the US, is also rallying for internal unity.
On Monday, Xi stressed that the Chinese Communist Party’s decision to enter the Korean War in 1950 was made to “safeguard peace and resist aggression.”
“The victory in the war to resist US aggression and aid Korea was a victory of justice, a victory of peace and a victory of the people,” he said during a visit to an exhibition in Beijing commemorating the 70th anniversary of the war’s beginning.
By Kim So-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org