Based on this article.
When North Korea conducted a missile test, everyone thought for sure China would be so mad that he’d refuse to meet with the guy. Everyone was wrong. The meeting went well. Too well. You’d almost think China was making a show of it to send a message to a certain someone.
North Korea was good at many things, but ruining things for China was one of his best skills. That’s why, just days after the lovely meeting, North Korea made a surprise visit to Beijing.
He stepped into China’s office but kept his distance near the bookshelf. China could boast quite the impressive collection: ancient texts and poetry, documents and memoirs written by some of the greatest leaders in Chinese history, steamy romance novels.
China said, “I wasn’t expecting to see you back so soon. To what do I owe this pleasure?”
The room smelled of sandalwood and North Korea noticed teabags sitting out on the wet bar. “You seem stressed, China.”
North Korea tapped his fingers against the leather spine of The Art of War. “South East Asia turning their backs to you, the United States not only meeting with Vietnam and Mongolia but also reinforcing his partnerships with Japan and my sister? He’s trying to surround you, China. And when you’re surrounded, the only place you’ll be able to look is down.”
North Korea turned away from the books. “Just to clarify, that was a reference to geography—not my height.”
China flashed him a taut smile. “I understood, thank you. Now, did you come here to tell me things I’m already aware of, or do you have another purpose?”
“I’m here because you want me to be.”
North Korea pulled a chair up to China’s desk and plopped down, then examined his ally. China may be masterful at concealing his emotions, but he never could quite figure out how to silence his eyes. North Korea read them like a book. China was angry that South East Asia had him on his heels. He hated being at a disadvantage for once, and he was growing sick of the Korean’s attitude.
“Our last meeting had too much fluff. I didn’t have to tell you that I’ll never stop developing nuclear weapons. You already knew that!”
“Don’t act so cocky. You came to me seeking respite from the burn of recent sanctions.”
Yep. There it was. Of course, North Korea knew not to poke the snake too much, especially since the snake was right.
“So, you’re my aloe vera and I’m an ace up your sleeve.”
“Oh, very poetic.”
“You’re in a worse position than I am, China.”
“This should be good.”
“I’m not your biggest problem right now. That American bastard is. I can behave while you deal with the mess you’ve gotten yourself into. Or…” He shrugged his shoulders. “I could not behave.”
China smiled, taut like before. His eyes gave away both amusement and umbrage at the Korean’s words. “You’re threatening me? Even after the pleasant and productive exchange we had the other day?”
“You misunderstood me, China. I am grateful that you vaguely supported my decision to protect myself in whatever way I choose. That’s why this isn’t a threat.” His next words came out slowly so that China could feel their weight. “No, this is just me making sure you remember that I’m the one ace you really want to keep.”
The article I first linked suggests the meeting between Ri and Xi was on friendly terms. While I believe that, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity have North Korea hold this South China Sea thing over China’s head. He usually feels so disrespected by China that he wouldn’t let something like this go—even if he was being a little rash.
I’m pointing out that this article says Ri’s visit to Beijing was meant to “court China.” 😉 Even more interesting: “…over the years, the North Koreans have shown themselves nothing if not skillful in manipulating the Chinese.” See? I told you the guy was good at manipulating stronger countries.