North Korean leader meets Chinese senior official, fetes Chinese art troupe

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has personally greeted senior Chinese diplomat Song Tao in Pyongyang on Sunday, state media reported.

Marking the two sides' efforts to boost their ties, Song arrived in the North on Friday, with the cultural delegation, to participate in the April Spring Friendship Art Festival, which commemorates regime founder Kim Il Sung's birth on Apr. 15.

As he accorded warm hospitality to Song, Kim remembered his recent visit to China.

In late March Kim made a rare visit to Beijing and met Xi, Kim's first known journey overseas since he took power in 2011.

Kim made his first visit to China in March, in a secret trip that reopened ties between the two governments after years of strained relations due to Beijing's opposition to Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme and support of worldwide sanctions against North Korea.

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KCNA said the North Korean leader expressed his satisfaction at the recent improvement of bilateral relations with China.

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. Song, head of the International Department in the Communist Party's Central Committee, reportedly replied that it was the Chinese government and Communist Party's "firm policy" to work toward improving relations between both countries.

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

Kim hosted a dinner banquet for Song and the art troupe on Saturday in Pyongyang, where North Korea's Samjiyon Orchestra played music and Song and Choe Ryong-hae, vice chairman of the Workers' Party's Central Committee, made a toast to improve North-China relations, the KCNA reported.

The warm welcome is in stark contrast to when Song was not permitted to meet Kim during a visit as the Chinese president's special envoy last November.

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