By Ben Blanchard
BEIJING (Reuters) – A North Korean general got a warm welcome in Beijing on Thursday, a rare high-profile showing at an international military forum by his normally reclusive country, underscoring an improvement in ties with China and the world.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump held a landmark summit in Singapore in June as they both look to set aside decades of hostility and bring peace to the Korean peninsula.
The two Koreas have also held three summits this year, while Kim has also met Chinese President Xi Jinping three times in 2018.
Attending the Xiangshan Forum in Beijing, which China styles as its answer to the annual Shangri-La Dialogue security forum in Singapore, Kim Hyong Ryong, vice minister of North Korea’s People’s Armed Forces, was greeted warmly by other attendees, including Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.
Addressing the forum, Kim said peace was the priority.
“Until only a year ago, the danger of military conflict lingered on the Korean Peninsula but today we are witnessing a series of events beyond all our expectations giving rise to the warm atmosphere of reconciliation, unity and peace,” he said, in comments translated into English.
“Today’s dramatic reality of the Korean Peninsula is the fruition of chairman Kim Jong Un’s determination and bold decision to turn the Korean Peninsula into a cradle of peace without any nuclear weapons or nuclear threats and achieve national reunification,” Kim said.
Chinese state media said it was the first time a North Korean general had attended the forum, which senior Western officials are traditionally largely absent from.
Kim said North Korea was making “sincere efforts” to successfully implement agreements reached by leader Kim and Trump in Singapore.
That summit was an “event of epochal significance” putting an end to their hostility and opening up a new chapter in ties, he said.
North Korea wants to turn the peninsula into a “cradle for peace and prosperity that contributes to the security of Asia and the globe by thoroughly implementing the DPRK-US joint statement”, Kim added, referring to his country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“The important reason the DPRK put forward a new strategic policy line of concentrating all efforts on socialist economic construction is to contribute to peace and stability of the region and the whole world,” he said.
“The DPRK will continue to fulfil its obligations and role in order to ease tensions and achieve stable peace on the Korean Peninsula.”
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)