N Korea’s Kim greets Chinese official, calls for stronger ties

SEOUL (AFP) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un personally greeted a top Chinese official in Pyongyang and called for stronger ties with Beijing, state media from both countries said on Sunday, as the traditional allies seek to heal battered relations.

Kim met Song Tao, head of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee’s international department, who was leading an art troupe to a spring festival in the North’s capital.

The delegation arrived just weeks after Kim made a surprise visit to Beijing and met Chinese President Xi Jinping, signalling an attempt by both leaders to shore up a key alliance ahead of a period of high-stakes diplomacy.

Kim is expected to hold summits with South Korean President Moon Jae-in this month and US President Donald Trump in the following weeks.

The North’s official KCNA news agency said Kim welcomed Song and his delegation in a meeting on Saturday at which Song conveyed Xi’s “warm greetings”.

In this April 14 photo provided on Sunday by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (left) shakes hands with Song Tao, head of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee’s international department in North Korea. – AP

The two exchanged “profound views on the important matters of mutual concern” and the international situation, KCNA said, without providing details.

“The Supreme Leader said that he would positively carry forward and develop the traditional DPRK-China friendship into a fresh phase of development as required by a new era,” it added, using the North’s official acronym.

On his trip to Beijing, Kim had “witnessed the remarkable achievement made by China” and “was happy for the brotherly Chinese people”, the official Chinese Xinhua news agency quoted him as saying.

Kim also said he wanted to “strengthen exchanges and cooperation” with China, according to Xinhua.

In response, Song told Kim that it was Beijing’s “unswerving policy… to preserve, consolidate, and develop relations” with the North, it added.