Chinese and North Korean officials meet in highest-level meeting in years

A senior Chinese official arrived in North Korea and held talks on how to boost co-operation in the countries’ highest-level meeting in about five years, North Korea’s state media reported on Friday,

Zhao Leji, chairman of China’s National People’s Congress and considered the number three official in the ruling Communist Party, arrived in North Korea on Thursday.

China’s government earlier said he will stay in North Korea until Saturday.

Mr Zhao met his North Korean counterpart Choe Ryong Hae and discussed how to promote exchanges and cooperation on all areas such as politics, economy and culture, North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

North Korea China
Mr Zhao and Choe Ryong Hae, right at Pyongyang International Airport in Pyongyang (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

Mr Zhao is one of the seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee, the Communist Party’s top leadership body headed by Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

His visit to North Korea marked the first bilateral exchange involving a committee member since the coronavirus pandemic started.

In 2019, the two countries held two summit meetings between Mr Xi and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Observers say North Korea and China are expected to hold a number of exchanges this year to mark the 75th year since they established diplomatic ties.

North Korea has been seeking to boost its co-operation with China and Russia in the face of a standoff with the United States and South Korea over the North’s advancing nuclear programme.

China, North Korea’s biggest aid benefactor, is believed to have long provided clandestine assistance to North Korea in violation of international sanctions.

Mr Kim traveled to Russia in September for a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The US, South Korea and others accuse North Korea of supplying conventional weapons for Russia’s war in Ukraine in return for advanced weapons technologies and other support.

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