Kim meets Chinese official, calls for strengthening ties

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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.

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.

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.

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The two countries' relations had been icy since China complied with worldwide sanctions against trade with North Korea past year in response to nuclear and ballistic missile tests. The 34-year-old leader described his visit to China last month as "unforgettable" thanks to the "warm comradeship" of the Chinese.

Song and Kim also exchanged their views on deepening bilateral relations, the KCNA said, with Kim saying he would develop their friendship into a "fresh phase of development".

Song highlighted that China's vision for its One Belt, One Road development policy can be shared with South Korea's New North policy, contending that the cooperation between the two countries can create more opportunities.

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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. In attendance were China's ambassador to North Korea, Li Jinjun, and other diplomats from the embassy, as well as Kim Yo-jong, Kim Jong-un's younger sister and first vice director of the Workers' Party's Central Committee, and other top-ranking North Korean officials.

The troupe performed on Saturday at the Mansudae Art Theatre, and 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.

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.

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