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(LEAD) Xi emphasizes friendship 'sealed in blood' with N.K.

2018/05/17 09:57

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(ATTN: RECASTS dateline; ADDS more info in paras 7 and 8)

SEOUL/BEIJING, May 17 (Yonhap) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping has met with visiting North Korean ruling party officials and emphasized the importance of advancing a friendship "sealed in blood" between the two countries, the North's state-run media reported Thursday.

The group led by Pak Thae-song, a member of the Political Bureau and vice chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, arrived in Beijing on Monday. He is accompanied by senior party officials representing major provinces and cities.

"Welcoming the friendship group's visit to China, Xi Jinping said that China is attaching very importance to the work to propel the traditional friendship between the two countries sealed in blood to a higher stage as required by the new era," the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in an English report.

"He noted with pleasure that he met Chairman Kim Jong-un two times and exchanged the comprehensive and detailed views on the matters of concern including the development of the relations between the two parties and the two countries and the regional and international situation," it added.

During the meeting held on Wednesday, Pak said that the party officials' trip to China would serve as an important chance to further relations between the two countries. He also emphasized that North Korea is "concentrating all their efforts" on economic development.

Since arriving Monday, the North Koreans have reportedly toured major industrial and economic areas, including the Zhongguancun High-tech Zone, known as China's Silicon Valley.

According to sources, they also met with Song Tao, head of the international liaison department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party on Monday, during which the Chinese official proposed increasing cooperation and exchanges between the two countries in diverse areas including agriculture, education and science technology.

The sources added that Pak explained he and other officials came to China to push for follow-up measures to the summits by the leaders of the two countries and also expressed a willingness to learn from the experience China has accumulated in its economic construction and opening.

Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visited the northeastern Chinese city of Dalian and met with Xi. It was their second meeting and followed Kim's surprise March visit to Beijing.

Ties between North Korea and China are showing signs of improvement after going through a tough patch for several years caused by the North's defiant advancement of its nuclear and missile programs.

North Korean leader Kim is set to hold an unprecedented summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore on June 12, with denuclearization likely to top the agenda. The meeting follows his historic inter-Korean summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in last month.

kokobj@yna.co.kr

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