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

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

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, left, with Song Tao, head of the Chinese Communist Party's International Department, in Pyongyang on Saturday, in a picture released by the Korean Central News Agency on Sunday.

North Korea's ties with China, its sole ally, had become strained over the past couple of years over the North's contentious missile and nuclear tests.

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

That contrasts with Song's last visit to Pyongyang last November, when he was sent as Xi's special enjoy to discuss the outcome of China's 19th Party Congress. Song returned to Beijing without meeting Kim.

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.

The two exchanged "profound views on important matters of mutual concern" and the global situation, KCNA said, without providing details. On Saturday, the National Ballet of China staged a performance of "Giselle" at the Mansudae Art Theatre in Pyongyang.

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State-run television aired footage of Kim's meeting with Song Tao, the chief of China's Communist Party's International Department, in Pyongyang on Saturday.

When nuclear-armed North Korea put on a flower show previous year to celebrate the birthday of its founder Kim Il Sung, scale model rockets were on display.

Kim was quoted as saying that he "would positively carry forward and develop the traditional DPRK-China friendship into a fresh phase of development as required by a new era by further strengthening of the bilateral relations between the two parties including exchange of high-level delegations and undertaking the brisk cooperation and visits in various fields and sectors". The visit comes after the 2 countries agreed to work on cultural sharing programs at a summit in Beijing last month.

The festival is a part of the celebrations of the Day of the Sun, which commemorates the birth anniversary of Kim Il-sung, founder and former president of North Korea.

The change may be related to upcoming summits with South Korea and the United States, in which Kim has promised to hold talks about some form of denuclearization.

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