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Kim Jong-un visits graves of Chinese troops killed in Korean War

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un offers a wreath at a cemetery for Chinese soldiers killed in the 1950-53 Korean War in Hoechang County, South Pyongan Province, in this photo released by the North's state-controlled Korean Central News Agency on Wednesday. [YONHAP]
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un offers a wreath at a cemetery for Chinese soldiers killed in the 1950-53 Korean War in Hoechang County, South Pyongan Province, in this photo released by the North’s state-controlled Korean Central News Agency on Wednesday. [YONHAP]

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Tuesday paid his respects at cemeteries where Korean and Chinese soldiers are buried to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended hostilities in the 1950-53 Korean War, Pyongyang’s state media said Wednesday.

The North celebrates the signing of the armistice on July 27, 1953, as a national holiday, which it calls the “Day of Victory in the Great Fatherland Liberation War.”

During his visit to the Fatherland Liberation War Martyrs Cemetery in Pyongyang on Tuesday, Kim claimed the signing of the armistice 70 years ago was the “miracle of July 27,” calling it a “great victory of significance in human history” in which the North “inflicted eternally indelible disgrace and defeat on U.S. imperialism, the chieftain of aggression, and prevented a new world war,” according to the state-controlled Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

The war began with a North Korean invasion of South Korea on June 25, 1950, a month after Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong-un’s grandfather and founder of the current regime, received approval from both Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and Chinese leader Mao Zedong.

The North Korean leader on Tuesday was accompanied on his visit to the Pyongyang war cemetery by Defense Minister Kang Sun-nam and other military leaders, the KCNA said.

Kim also paid “high tribute” to China’s war dead at a cemetery for members of China’s People’s Volunteer Army in Hoechang County, South Pyongan Province, the KCNA said in a separate report.

China intervened in the Korean War in October 1950, after U.S.-led United Nations forces turned the tide of the conflict and began pushing into North Korean territory.

During his visit, Kim said the “great victory won by the peoples of the DPRK and China at the cost of their blood continues to display its great vitality still now and will invariably do so for centuries to come.”

Kim was accompanied on the visit to the Chinese war cemetery by his sister Kim Yo-jong, Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui and Jo Yong-won, the ruling Workers’ Party’s secretary for organizational affairs.

The KCNA also said that the Russian military delegation led by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had arrived on Tuesday in Pyongyang for the regime’s commemorations of the armistice signing.

The United States in recent months has accused North Korea of supplying arms to Russia in support of the latter’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, which the North has denied.

The KCNA did not report whether a Chinese delegation led by Li Hongzhong, first vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s Politburo, has arrived in the North.

The state news agency reported on Monday that the North had invited a Chinese delegation led by Li to join the regime’s armistice commemorations.

The Russian and Chinese delegations are Pyongyang’s first official guests from abroad since it closed its borders at the beginning of the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic in January 2020.

Recent satellite images have shown that the North is undertaking preparations for a large-scale parade, which is expected to take place late Wednesday or early Thursday.

After the North’s invitations to China and Russia were announced, U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel said that Moscow and Beijing have a “potential role” they can play “through the auspices of the [United Nations] Security Council” to induce Pyongyang to dial down military actions seen as escalating regional tensions by Seoul and Washington and return to the negotiating table.

As permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, China and Russia have repeatedly tabled or vetoed attempts by the United States and others to introduce new resolutions against North Korea for its record number of missile launches last year.

Pyongyang fired around 90 missiles in 2022 and has carried out 12 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launches since last year.

BY MICHAEL LEE [lee.junhyuk@joongang.co.kr]