Kim Jong Il is reportedly back in Pyongyang after concluding an unofficial, semi-secret trip to China last week. After spending a couple of days in the northern Chinese industrial city of Dalian, where he reportedly drove around in a $400,000 Maybach limousine and stayed at a 5-star hotel, he traveled to Beijing to party with his fellow travelers on the Communist road. State-run television showed the diminutive Dear Leader, resplendent as always in olive green zipper jacket and matching pants, kissing, hugging and toasting (Kim Jong Il is reported to favor expensive Bordeaux wine) Chinese President Hu, but commentators also noted that Kim appeared to have lost weight and a substantial portion of his infamous pompadour hair style.
Kim reportedly told his patrons in Beijing that he wanted to work with Beijing to "create favorable conditions" for the NORK's return to six-party talks on denuclearization, after hitting them up for more aid for his impoverished country and selling them on his plans to continue the Kim dynasty. While Beijing may be eager to see a return to six party talks, the South Koreans -- whose president was just in Beijing the previous week -- are still pretty unhappy about what increasingly looks like a North Korean torpedo attack on a South Korean ship, the Cheonan, in March. Unsurprisingly, they are markedly less interested in sitting across the table from a government that may have just committed an unprovoked act of war against them. The U.S. is playing it cool on a return to the table in solidarity with its South Korean allies, and Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reported the White House was displeased with Beijing for hosting Kim while the investigation into the Cheonan incident remains open, and for not giving the U.S. any kind of heads up on the visit. Officially, the U.S. is hopeful that the Chinese conveyed a message to Kim over the seriousness of the Cheonan incident, but whatever the stability-obsessed Chinese may have said to their little friend, it seems clear they will continue to provide him with crucial support and cover for his provocative actions.
Apparently, Washington and Seoul are not the only ones upset about Kim's excellent Chinese adventure. In an interesting development, Chinese bloggers and twitterers lashed out online over Kim's lavish traveling style, denouncing him for his extravagant ways in light of his country's abject poverty. Poor little rich dictator. It's so lonely at the top.