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Friday, April 27, 2018

Kim calls for stronger ties with China

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un personally greeted a top Chinese official in Pyongyang and called for stronger ties with Beijing, state media said on Sunday, as the traditional allies seek to heal battered relations.Kim met Song Tao, head of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee's international department, who was leading an art troupe to attend a spring festival in the North's capital. The delegation arrived just weeks after Kim made a surprise visit to Beijing and met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, signaling an attempt by both leaders to shore up a key alliance ahead of a period of high-stakes diplomacy.

The North Korean leader on Saturday "warmly" greeted Song and the Chinese delegation visiting Pyongyang to perform, the North's official Korea Central News Agency said."He said with deep emotion that the Chinese comrades accorded cordial hospitality to him with utmost sincerity in token of warm comradely friendship during his recent unforgettable visit to China," the KCNA said.

In late March, Kim made a rare visit to Beijing and met Xi, Kim's first known journey abroad since he took power in 2011. Song is leading a Chinese art troupe attending a spring art festival in Pyongyang held as part of the commemorations for the anniversary of the birth of the North's founder Kim Il Sung on April 15, 1912. Both North Korean and foreign artists take part, and this year's week-long event includes concerts, dance performances and acrobatics.

The art troupe performed on Saturday at the Mansudae Art Theatre, and the 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. At the meeting with Song, Kim also said the warm welcome was "due obligation and behavior of the host and close friend for him," and would offer "all conditions for the Chinese art troupe at the highest level and on a top-priority basis," according to the KCNA.

-Reuters, Seoul

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