North apparatchiks court Beijing’s diplomats

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North apparatchiks court Beijing’s diplomats

North Korean officials turned out in force for the Lunar New Year reception at the Chinese Embassy in Pyongyang last week, diplomatic sources in Beijing said Monday.

According to insiders citing the homepage of China’s Embassy in North Korea, some 70 senior officials from the reclusive country’s ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), the government and the military were present at the event held Tuesday.

They said Kim Yong-dae, the vice president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly was present, as well as several vice ministers and representatives from the armed forces and security ministries.

“Traditionally, North Korean officials made appearances at Chinese Embassy gatherings, but it is rare that so many showed up when relations have been hurt by Beijing’s support of U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang,” a source who declined to be identified said.

China supported stringent sanctions against its neighbor twice following the North’s two nuclear tests and launch of various ballistic missiles, which violated the current ban on such activities.

He hinted that the latest move shows how desperate North Korea has become to improve strained relations with its main ally.

At the gathering, Li Jinjun, Beijing’s top diplomat to Pyongyang, said that despite challenges, two-way relations endured in 2016 and made notable headway in certain areas. He then called for more progress in the new year and that all sides should try to convert obstacles into opportunities.

In response Kim stressed to assembled guests that North Korea-China relations have been forged in blood and further strengthened by a long shared history and closeness of its leaders. China fought on the side of the North in the Korean War (1950-53).

“It is the firm stance of the WPK and the government to nurture and build strong relations and fuel exchanges and cooperation,” the vice president of the people’s assembly was quoted as saying at the reception.

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