NORTH Korean leader Kim Jong Un sent a letter of congratulations to China’s President Xi Jinping on Wednesday, wishing him “great success” after the conclusion of the Communist Party Congress at which Xi became the country’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong.
The unusually friendly gesture comes as China is under mounting pressure from the international community, especially the United States, to do more to rein in the North’s nuclear programme and continued missile tests.
“It expressed the conviction that the relations between the two parties and the two countries would develop in the interests of the peoples of the two countries,” the North’s state-run central news agency said in a statement on Thursday, citing the message sent by Kim to Xi.
“The Chinese people have entered the road of building socialism with the Chinese characteristics in the new era” under the guidance of Xi, the message also said.
China is the only major trading partner of the isolated regime, accounting for more than 90 percent. Trade has continued despite pressure from the international community and the United Nations to cut ties.
Beijing has, however, said it will strictly enforce UN Security Council sanctions banning imports of coal, textiles and seafood, while cutting off oil shipments to the North. The move comes after Pyongyang defied instructions from the UN and continued to conduct missile launches and nuclear tests.
The latest launch from Pyongyang was in mid-September, when it fired missiles over Japan, escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula and drawing ire of US President Donald Trump.
China has repeatedly urged the North to exercise restraint and has implored all sides to speak and act carefully.
“North Korea has been walking a diplomatic tightrope by taking advantage of strategic mistrust between China and Russia, but it has not been easy as Beijing has sternly responded to its nuclear and missile provocations,” said Kim Han-kwon, a professor at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy in Seoul.
“China’s party congress is over, but Kim Jong Un’s concerns will only continue to deepen. The most significant event at hand is the upcoming summit between Xi and Trump,” said Kim.
Additional reporting from Reuters