China has confirmed that it will have a representative at the national memorial service for deceased North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. At the same time, the Chinese government has said very little publicly except that it hopes for enduring peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei emphasized that although China has sent no official delegation to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's funeral, Beijing will be represented in Pyongyang.
He says the Chinese ambassador in Pyongyang paid Beijing's respects to Kim Jong Il's body, which was lying in state, and will attend the national memorial service for Mr. Kim on Thursday.
The spokesman added that China and North Korea are close and friendly neighbors, and that his country has expressed its condolences in many different forms.
He says Chinese President Hu Jintao and Communist Party leaders went to the North Korean embassy in Beijing to offer their condolences. He added that during the mourning period, Chinese diplomatic missions in North Korea will fly their flags at half-staff.
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China is North Korea's neighbor and closest diplomatic ally, so there is much interest in Beijing's views on the situation in Pyongyang. But the Chinese government has said little officially other than expressing confidence in designated successor Kim Jong Un and calling for stability.
Spokesman Hong says China believes that maintaining peace and stability in North Korea, as well as on the Korean peninsula and in Northeast Asia is good for all parties and, in his words, “meets the common aspiration of the international community.”
Since Kim Jong Il died more than a week ago, Chinese officials have met with or held discussions with American, South Korean and Japanese officials. The spokesman indicated China also has been maintaining what he described as “normal communication” with North Korea, but he gave no details as to what has been discussed.
Chinese television carried extensive live broadcasts of the ceremonies in Pyongyang, but offered little commentary or analysis on the leadership transition.
In the Chinese border city of Dandong, across the Yalu River from North Korea, dozens of people crowded into a North Korean restaurant to watch the funeral on television.
Eighty-two year old Dandong resident and Korean War veteran Wang Shengcai says the mourning in North Korea reminds him of how he and others felt after Chairman Mao died in 1976.
He says he and others were so sad at the time so they were all crying, which he says was similar to what the North Koreans are doing now.