Published: Sun, April 15, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Chinese official meets Kim Jong Un, ahead of inter-Korean summit

Chinese official meets Kim Jong Un, ahead of inter-Korean summit

North Korean Kim Jong-un leader met a Chinese delegation accompanying an art troupe visiting Pyongyang, in the latest gesture of rapprochement between the two countries following years of tension, state media reported on Sunday.

North Korea's state broadcaster Korean Central Television said Sunday that Song Tao, who leads the Chinese Communist Party's International Department, held a meeting with Kim on Saturday to "exchange in-depth opinions on areas of mutual interest including major issues and world order".

"According to the report, Kim expressed satisfaction with the meeting, saying he will "take the North Korea-China friendship to a whole new level, in line with new generational demands" by strengthening exchanges between high-level officials as well as cooperation and visits in various sectors".

Kim made his first visit to China in March, in a secret trip that reopened ties between the two governments after years of strained relations due to Beijing's opposition to Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme and support of global sanctions against North Korea. The 34-year-old leader described his visit to China last month as "unforgettable" thanks to the "warm comradeship" of the Chinese.

The event is part of the annual commemorations for the anniversary of the birth of Kim Jong Un's grandfather Kim Il Sung on April 15, and features tens of thousands of the purple orchids named after the North's founder by the then Indonesian leader Sukarno in 1965. The presidential body aims at expanding ties with northern countries, such as China, Russia and possibly North Korea.

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The warm welcome is in stark contrast to when Song was not permitted to meet Kim during a visit as the Chinese president's special envoy last November.

This time around, Song promised "a fresh contribution to promoting the prolonged and stable development of the China-DPRK relations".

Song met several North Korean officials, including Choe, but not Kim.

The troupe performed on Saturday at the Mansudae Art Theatre, and North Korean leader Kim's wife Ri Sol Ju watched a ballet, "Giselle", performed by the National Ballet of China, but Kim was not present, the KCNA said.

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