North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has met with a senior Chinese diplomat in the North’s capital city, Pyongyang, weeks after Kim traveled to China in a landmark visit that signified the opening up of North Korea.
Kim on Saturday “warmly” greeted his “comrade” Song Tao, the high-ranking Chinese diplomat, North Korean state media reported on Sunday.
The two exchanged viewpoints on bilateral relations between North Korea and China. Kim said he would move the relationship between the two countries into a “fresh phase of development as required by a new era by the further strengthening of the bilateral relations.”
China has been North Korea’s main political ally. But Beijing has in the past also voted in favor of punitive international measures against Pyongyang at the United Nations Security Council, including as recently as late 2017. Those measures, along with many unilateral ones by Western countries, have been made in an attempt to hamper North Korea’s advancing nuclear and missile programs.
Kim made a one-day visit to the Chinese capital on March 27, meeting with President Xi Jinping, in what was seen as a sign of a strengthening of ties.
North Korea has also opened up to South Korea, its historical adversary, by holding mid-level diplomatic talks and sending athletes to partake in the recent Winter Olympics in the South. Kim has also received senior South Korean officials. Those efforts have led to the arrangement of what would be a historic summit due to be held between the North Korean leader and South Korean President Moon Jae-in later this month.
Song, who is the head of the International Liaison Department of the ruling Communist Party of China, was accompanied on his visit to North Korea by a Chinese art troupe coming to perform in Pyongyang.
Song had reportedly been denied an earlier request for a meeting with the North Korean leader.
The art troupe performed on Saturday, with Kim’s wife, Ri Sol-ju, among the spectators.