North Korea's Kim Jong Un meets Chinese official, calls for stronger ties

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets Song Tao the head of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee’s international department on Sunday

The Chinese art troupe is attending a spring art festival held as part of the commemorations for the anniversary of the birth of the North's founder Kim Il Sung on April 15, 1912.

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But Kim now plans to develop the traditional friendship 'into a fresh phase of development, ' the state media report added.

North Korea's state broadcaster Korean Central Television said Sunday that Song Tao, who leads the Chinese Communist Party's International Department, held a meeting with Kim on Saturday to "exchange in-depth opinions on areas of mutual interest including major issues and world order".

North Korea's ties with China, its sole ally, had become strained over the past couple of years over the North's contentious missile and nuclear tests.

Kim on Saturday vowed to solidify the bond between North Korea's Workers' Party and China's Communist Party through high-level exchanges. The 34-year-old leader described his visit to China last month as "unforgettable" thanks to the "warm comradeship" of the Chinese.

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The delegation arrived just weeks after Mr Kim made a surprise visit to Beijing and met Chinese President Xi Jinping, signalling an attempt by both leaders to shore up a key alliance ahead of a period of high-stakes diplomacy.

The troupe performed on Saturday at the Mansudae Art Theatre, and Kim's wife Ri Sol Ju watched the ballet Giselle performed by the National Ballet of China, but Kim was not present, the KCNA said.

Song Young-gil, who heads the Presidential Committee on Northern Economic Cooperation, met officials from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the Charhar Institute, the committee said.

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.

Kim also hosted a banquet for the Chinese delegation, in which officials from the two sides toasted to their shared will "to more beautifully decorate the flower garden of the DPRK-China friendship".

The broadcaster did not specify which issues were on the agenda but the widely expected meeting is believed to be a continuation of talks between Beijing and Pyongyang regarding Kim's upcoming summits with South Korea and the United States on denuclearization.

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