Clothing Makes The Diplomat

28 May

When Xi Met ChoeThe two Koreas remind us that what really matters is fashion and name-calling.

It is becoming increasingly likely that nothing concrete will materialize following the reference to the six-party talks made during the May 24 meeting between Chinese president Xi Jinping and Choe Ryong-hae, vice marshal of the North Korean military. North Korea is desperate to cling to its nuclear weapons, and there are no signs that this stance is changing.

On May 25, shortly after Choe returned to North Korea, Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Pyongyang’s official news service, reported that Choe had delivered a handwritten letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to the Chinese president. However, the report made no mention of the fact that Choe brought up the six-party talks in his conversation with Xi Jinping, let alone the forceful language with which the Chinese pressured the North to give up its nuclear weapons. This part of the story was omitted from the official North Korean report. The KCNA report also took umbrage at South Korean president Park Geun-hye’s May 23 remarks, when she simultaneously criticized North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (who was referred to in the report as “the most dignified”) and his so-called two-track plan for strengthening the country’s nuclear arsenal while also building the economy. The report leveled withering criticism against Park, using invectives such as “heinous” and “impertinent” and accusing Park of “revealing her flagrant desire to provoke conflict.” In particular, the report even trotted out the term “puppet president”, which Pyongyang had until that point been holding back from directing against Park, while defending the two-track program. This is being seen as making clear not only to South Korea but also to China and the world at large that the North does not intend to give up its nuclear weapons.

And then, there’s the supposed symbolism surrounding Choe Ryong-hae’s wardrobe changes.

Throughout North Korean vice marshal Choe Ryong-hae’s visit to China last week, he wore his military uniform except for when he donned civilian garb to meet Chinese president Xi Jinping. When Choe returned to North Korea on the evening of the same day, he was once again wearing his military uniform. Curiosity is increasing about the reasons for his wardrobe change.

Choe stayed clad in military attire, clearly displaying his rank as vice marshal, from his departure from Pyongyang Sunan International Airport on May 22 and throughout his meetings with various Chinese officials. It stayed on when he met with Wang Jiarui, head of the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, on May 22; Liu Yunshan, first secretary of the Central Secretariat of the Communist Party of China, on May 23; and Fan Changlong, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), on May 24. But when Choe was granted a meeting with Xi Jinping on the afternoon of May 24, he showed up in black civilian attire.

Maybe Chinese one-hour laundry delivery really sucks.

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