13 Apr 2024, 12:03

Senior officials stress 'new chapter' of China-N. Korea ties

SEOUL, April 13, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - China's top legislator and a senior North
Korean official emphasised opening a "new chapter" of Beijing-Pyongyang
relations, the North's state media said Saturday, as they met for one of the
most high-level talks 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 government in response to its
increased weapons tests.

Zhao and his North Korean counterpart Choe Ryong Hae attended an opening
ceremony for the "year of DPRK-China friendship" in Pyongyang on Friday,
North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency said, using the acronym for
the North's official name.

In a speech, Zhao said it is the "consistent strategic policy" of Beijing to
"successfully defend, consolidate and develop" China-North Korea relations,
according to KCNA.

China is willing to "thoroughly implement the important common understanding"
of the two countries and "open up a new chapter of China-DPRK friendship
along with the times", he added.

North Korea's Choe said the two countries' relationship "has greeted a new
heyday under the wise leadership" of their leaders, KCNA said.

Choe and Zhao were seen sitting next to each other watching performances by
what KCNA said were "prestigious art troupes" of the two nations at the East
Pyongyang Grand Theatre, AFP footage showed.

Some performers wore colourful traditional Korean and Chinese garments, and
what appeared to be the final moment of the event highlighted a massive image
of the countries' flags, accompanied by the phrase "eternal friendship".

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 this week that Zhao's trip could
include planning for Kim's next potential state visit to Beijing.
North Korea's rhetoric towards the South has been in stark contrast to the
friendly relations with Beijing.

This year, Kim has declared Seoul his country's "principal enemy", jettisoned
agencies dedicated to reunification and outreach, and threatened war over
"even 0.001 mm" of territorial infringement.

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

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