The leaders of China and North Korea have reaffirmed their traditional alliance.
North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said leader Kim Jong Un called for stronger “unity and co-operation” with China in the face of challenges posed by “hostile forces” while exchanging messages with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
According to KCNA and China’s Xinhua news agency, Mr Xi in his own message to Mr Kim described bilateral relations as a “valuable asset” to both countries and vowed to make unspecified contributions to the peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.
KCNA said Mr Xi also expressed a commitment to “provide the peoples of the two countries with better life”. Some analysts saw this as an indication that China would soon provide North Korea with badly needed food, fertiliser and other aid that had been significantly reduced amid the pandemic border closures.
Xinhua said the leaders’ messages were exchanged between Chinese senior diplomat Song Tao and North Korean ambassador to China Ri Ryong Nam during a meeting in Beijing on Monday.
The exchange came as the US government steps up diplomatic efforts to strengthen co-operation with Asian allies South Korea and Japan to deal with the North Korean nuclear threat and China’s growing regional influence.
Top US and Chinese officials traded sharp and unusually public barbs in Alaska last week in their first face-to-face meetings since President Joe Biden took office, where secretary of state Antony Blinken said Washington is united with its allies in pushing back against Chinese authoritarianism.
The contentious talks in Anchorage came after Mr Blinken and US defence secretary Lloyd Austin travelled to Japan and South Korea for talks that mainly focused on North Korea and China.
During his visit to Seoul, Mr Blinken sternly criticised North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and human rights record and pressed China to use its “tremendous influence” to convince North Korea to denuclearise.
North Korea has so far ignored US efforts to reach out, saying it will not engage in meaningful talks unless Washington abandons what Pyongyang sees as “hostile” policies, which clearly refers to the US-led sanctions and pressure over its nuclear programme.
KCNA said Mr Kim addressed the state of North Korea’s relations with the US and South Korea, and said communication between him and Mr Xi was required in the face of changed “external situations and reality”, apparently referring to the new US administration.
Mr Kim’s message “stressed the need to strengthen the unity and co-operation between the two parties and two countries to cope with the hostile forces’ all-round challenges and obstructive moves,” KCNA said.