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


Kim met Song Tao, head of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee's worldwide department, who was leading an art troupe to a spring festival in the North's capital.

The North Korean leader on Saturday "warmly" greeted Song Tao and the Chinese delegation visiting Pyongyang to perform and also sent his greetings to Chinese President Xi Jinping after Song conveyed Xi's greetings to Kim, the North's official Korea Central News Agency said.

Kim will meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in on April 27 at the border between the two countries, and US President Donald Trump in May or early June at a yet-to-be determined venue.

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.

The two exchanged "profound views on important matters of mutual concern" and the worldwide situation, KCNA said, without providing details.

After making rapid strides in its weapons programmes a year ago, when intercontinental ballistic missile launches and its most powerful nuclear blast to date earned it several new sets of UN Security Council sanctions, Pyongyang does not want anything to spoil the atmosphere now that talks are at hand.

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"The Supreme Leader said 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", it added, using the North's official acronym.

More high-level exchanges and cooperation will follow between Beijing and Pyongyang, the report cited Kim as saying. Mr Song vowed to make "a fresh contribution to promoting the prolonged and stable development" of China-North Korea relations.

Observers say the media coverage on the birthday of the country's late founder and Kim Jong Un's grandfather underscores the North's intentions to strengthen ties with China ahead of planned summits with South Korea and the United States.

Photos from the evening show long tables with officials applauding as they listened to speeches.

The Chinese art troupe, led by Song, the head of the Communist Party's International Department, left for North Korea on Friday for an April Spring Friendship Art Festival.

KCNA said the North Korean leader expressed his satisfaction at the recent improvement of bilateral relations with China.