Kim Jong-un of North Korea Fetes Chinese Envoy as Ties Warm

Clay Curtis
April 16, 2018

In this April 14, 2018, photo provided Sunday, April 15, 2018, by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, shakes hands with Song Tao, head of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee's global department in North Korea.

North Korea's relationship with its sole ally during the 1950-1953 Korean war had strained when China pushed United Nations to punish Pyongyang for its nuclear weapons programme.

Kim on Saturday vowed to solidify the bond between North Korea's Workers' Party and China's Communist Party through high-level exchanges.

Song arrived in Pyongyang last Friday to lead a Chinese art troupe performing in the North's April Spring Friendship Art Festival. Kim's wife, Ri Sol-ju, attended.

KCNA said the North Korean leader expressed his satisfaction at the recent improvement of bilateral relations with China. The 34-year-old leader described his visit to China last month as "unforgettable" thanks to the "warm comradeship" of the Chinese.

North Korea is marking its biggest national holiday by playing up its intention to strengthen ties with China. Sent by President Xi Jinping to discuss the outcome of China's 19th Party Congress, Song had returned home without meeting Kim Jong-un.

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Mr. Kim's friendly welcome also contrasted with the reception that Mr. Song received the last time he visited North Korea, as a special envoy of Mr. Xi in November.

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

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.

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.

Pyongyang is on a charm offensive accompanying the sudden diplomatic rapprochement on the peninsula, with a summit due later this month between leader Kim Jong Un and the South's President Moon Jae-in.

"In March, Kim visited Beijing, his first visit overseas since ascending to power in 2011".

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