North's Kim calls for stronger ties after personally greeting top Chinese official

SEOUL • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un personally greeted a top Chinese official in Pyongyang and called for stronger ties with Beijing, state media reported yesterday, as the allies seek to heal battered relations.

Mr Kim met Mr 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 Mr 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.

Mr 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 Mr Kim welcomed Mr Song and his delegation in a meeting on Saturday at which Mr Song conveyed Mr Xi's "warm greetings".

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

The North's official KCNA news agency said Mr Kim Jong Un welcomed Mr Song Tao and his delegation in a meeting on Saturday at which Mr Song conveyed Mr Xi Jinping's "warm greetings"... Mr Song vowed to make "a fresh contribution to promoting the prolonged and stable development" of China-North Korea relations.

Beijing is North Korea's sole major ally but relations soured after China supported United Nations sanctions to punish Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons programme.

More high-level exchanges and cooperation will follow between Beijing and Pyongyang, the report cited Mr Kim as saying.

In response, Mr Song vowed to make "a fresh contribution to promoting the prolonged and stable development" of China-North Korea relations.

The Chinese art troupe is attending a spring art festival held as part of the commemorations for the anniversary of the birth of the North's founder Kim Il Sung on April 15, 1912.

Mr Kim Jong Un hosted a banquet for the Chinese delegation.

Officials from the two Koreas also met on Saturday at the North's side of the Demilitarised Zone to discuss setting up a hotline between their leaders, Seoul's presidential office said yesterday.

Both sides will hold another working-level meeting on Wednesday to agree on protocol, security measures and media coverage of the April 27 summit.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 16, 2018, with the headline 'North's Kim calls for stronger ties after personally greeting top Chinese official'. Print Edition | Subscribe