The Korea Herald

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N. Korea elevates high-level exchanges with China, Russia

By Lee Jaeeun

Published : April 14, 2024 - 15:02

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This photo, carried by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency on Saturday, shows China's top legislator, Zhao Leji, meeting with North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang, Saturday. (Yonhap) This photo, carried by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency on Saturday, shows China's top legislator, Zhao Leji, meeting with North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang, Saturday. (Yonhap)

North Korea has been intensifying high-level diplomatic exchanges with China and Russia, as evidenced by the visit of China's third-highest-ranking official to Pyongyang and the dispatch of ministers to Russia this week.

China's No. 3 official, Zhao Leji, who arrived in Pyongyang on Thursday for a three-day visit to the neighboring country, met for a luncheon with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Saturday, North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency reported on Sunday.

The KCNA reported that Kim had pleasant chats with Zhao and other members of the delegation in a harmonious and friendly atmosphere, further deepening the friendship.

Kim stressed that the visit by Zhao "is of very weighty significance in demonstrating the invincibility of the DPRK-China friendship and further developing the traditional friendly and cooperative relations between the two countries as required by the times," according to the KCNA's English dispatch.

The DPRK refers to North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Zhao then expressed his heartfelt deep thanks to Kim for attaching the utmost importance and paying deep attention to the delegation so that it could achieve the greatest success during the visit, according to the KCNA.

The two discussed the "issue of boosting the multifaceted exchange and cooperation for developing the friendly and cooperative relations dear to the two parties and two countries into more viable ties, occasioned by the 'year of DPRK-China friendship,' and other important issues of mutual concern," the KCNA reported.

Kim and Chinese President Xi Jinping have previously designated this year as the "Year of DPRK-China Friendship" marking 75 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The Chinese delegation led by Zhao also attended the opening ceremony to commemorate the year of DPRK-China Friendship at the East Pyongyang Grand Theatre in Pyongyang on Friday.

Last week, China’s Foreign Ministry said Zhao’s visit reflected the “deep friendship” between the two countries and the “great importance China attaches to its relations” with North Korea.

Zhao's trip to Pyongyang is the highest-level Chinese visit to North Korea in nearly five years since Kim met with Xi in 2019.

Meanwhile, North Korea has accelerated high-level exchanges with Russia. The North Korean delegation led by Health Minister Jong Mu-rim departed for Russia on Saturday for talks on health cooperation, KCNA reported Sunday.

Russia's Embassy in Pyongyang said Saturday that Jong will hold discussions on ways to cooperate with Russia in the fields of science and medicine, and the delegation will also tour the Center for Family Planning and Reproduction in Moscow, which provides medical services for pregnancy, childbirth and infertility, during its trip.

The trip by Jong followed closely on the heels of a delegation from the North Korean Education Ministry, headed by Minister Kim Sung-du, returning to Pyongyang from Russia on Saturday.

These recent exchanges between high-ranking officials signify the ongoing strengthening of bilateral exchanges, particularly since the summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin in September.

In January, North Korea's Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui paid a visit to Russia for discussions with Putin, while in March, a North Korean delegation led by External Economic Relations Minister Yun Jong-ho journeyed to Moscow. Additionally, a delegation led by Russian Vice Culture Minister Andrei Maluishev, along with an art troupe, visited North Korea in March as well.