12 Apr 2024, 10:23

China's top legislator meets senior N. Korea official: KCNA

SEOUL, April 12, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - China's top legislator met with a senior North Korean official for talks on cooperation during a visit to Pyongyang this week, North Korean state media said Friday, in one of the most high-level meetings between the allies in years.

Beijing's third highest-ranking official Zhao Leji -- a member of the powerful Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party's Politburo -- is on a goodwill visit to the nuclear-armed North as the two countries mark 75 years of diplomatic ties.

China is North Korea's most important economic benefactor and diplomatic ally, obstructing US-led efforts at the UN Security Council alongside Russia to impose stricter sanctions on Kim Jong Un's regime in response to its increased weapons tests.

Zhao arrived in the North Korean capital on Thursday and met North Korean counterpart Choe Ryong Hae, discussing "exchange and cooperation in all fields, including politics, economy and culture," KCNA said.

"The talks exchanged views on the regional and international issues of mutual concern," it added, without specifying.

Zhao is China's third highest-ranking official, behind President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qiang.

Xi last met Kim in 2019 before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, making the Pyongyang meeting between Zhao and Choe one of the most high-level meetings in years.

South Korean local media reports said Zhao's visit could include planning for Kim's next potential state visit to Beijing.

China's state-run news agency Xinhua said the two officials also discussed the "situation on the Korean peninsula," and Zhao expressed Beijing's willingness to "intensify legislative exchanges and cooperation".

Choe and Zhao signed "relevant cooperation documents" in the fields of "mutual exemption of diplomatic visas between China and North Korea, mutual translation and publication of classic works, customs and quarantine, radio and television, and postal express delivery," Xinhua said.

Kim has tried to shore up relations with Beijing as he increases his aggressive rhetoric towards South Korea.

As North Korea's biggest trading partner, the Chinese products that dominate exports include soybean oil and rubber tyres, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity, a trade data project linked to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Pyongyang's top exports include tungsten ore, ferroalloys and hair products such as fake eyelashes and wigs.

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