Boosting ties with ‘good neighbour’

In high spirits: This picture taken by and released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency shows Kim (right) meeting Zhao (left) in Pyongyang. — AFP

A TOP ranking Chinese official reaffirmed ties with North Korea during a meeting with the country’s leader Kim Jong-un in the capital Pyongyang, China’s state media reported, in the highest-level talks between the allies in years.

The visit by Zhao Leji, who ranks third in the ruling Communist Party hierarchy and heads the ceremonial parliament, came as North Korea has test fired missiles to intimidate South Korea and its ally, the United States.

Xinhua News Agency reported that Zhao told Kim at the meeting on Saturday – concluding his three-day visit – that China, the North’s most important source of economic aid and diplomatic support, looked forward to further developing ties but made no mention of the political situation on the peninsula or the region.

North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) yesterday confirmed the meeting and said Kim held unspecified discussions with Zhao on “boosting the multi-faceted exchange and cooperation” and “other important issues of mutual concern”.

Since the establishment of diplomatic ties 75 years ago, China and North Korea have been “good neighbours and struggled together to attain a common destiny and level of development”, Xinhua quoted Zhao as saying.

China fought on behalf of the reclusive country against the US and others during the 1950-1953 Korean War and, in recent years, has helped prop up its weak economy, allegedly in violation of United Nations sanctions in response to Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme that Beijing had endorsed.

Zhao met his North Korean counterpart Choe Ryong-hae lastThursday and discussed how to promote exchanges and cooperation in all areas, KCNA reported.

North Korea closed its borders during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic amid reports of a major outbreak and food shortages.

Zhao’s visit to North Korea marked the first bilateral exchange involving a Chinese Politburo Standing Committee member since the pandemic started.

Prior to the outbreak, Kim and Chinese President Xi Jinping held two summits in 2019.

North Korea and China are expected to hold a number of exchanges this year to mark the anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties.

North Korea has sought to boost its cooperation with Beijing and Russia in the face of a standoff with the US and South Korea over its missile launches and nuclear programme. — AP

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