China’s President Xi Jinping has underlined the significance of Beijing’s cooperation with Pyongyang in a message to North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, the North’s state KCNA news agency reported.
Xi further emphasized that China is ready to "develop the China-DPRK relations of friendship and cooperation" under a "new situation," KCNA said on Saturday, referring to North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
The official news agency, however, did not elaborate about the distinctions of the “new situation.”
The Chinese president made the statement in response to Kim's congratulatory message for the Beijing Winter Olympics Games and a verbal message of congratulation soon after the successful closing of the games, the report added.
In his verbal message earlier in the week, the North Korean leader pledged to further boost cooperation with China and together "frustrate" threats and hostile policies from the US and its allies.
The message was delivered to Xi to mark Sunday’s closing ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics, the country’s ruling party-run Rodong Sinmun said on Tuesday. North Korean athletes, however, did not take part in the Games.
The two sides “are strengthening strategic cooperation and unity to destroy the undisguised hostile policy and military threat of the United States and its followers and defend and advance the common cause of socialism,” Kim wrote to Xi.
He further praised Xi’s leadership and said China had "left an indelible trace in the history of the Olympics with its indefatigable efforts" despite "unprecedentedly severe health crisis and the hostile forces' maneuvers”.
“[Kim] expressed his will to further consolidate DPRK-China relations into indestructible relations and actively contribute to the building of a peaceful and developing world together with General Secretary Xi Jinping,” the Rodong Sinmun also added in a summary of the message.
This comes as military cooperation with North Korea is prohibited by UN sanctions that were approved by China.
The UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2270, passed in 2016, bars Pyongyang from giving or receiving “technical training, advice, services or assistance related to the provision, manufacture, maintenance or use” of missiles, nuclear weapons and even light weapons.
But the two countries have seen visits of military delegations in recent years as the UN resolutions do not prevent the two sides from discussing military strategy.
In 2018, Kim made his first known international trip as the North Korean leader to meet President Xi in Beijing. Xi reciprocated later with a visit to Pyongyang, the first by a Chinese leader in 14 years.
Beijing has remained Pyongyang’s only major ally since the two sides signed the Mutual Aid and Cooperation Friendship Treaty in 1961.
Washington has repeatedly called on Beijing, which accounts for 90 percent of Pyongyang’s foreign trade, to put more economic pressure on North Korea, amid tensions over its military program.
North Korea has been reeling under a series of UN sanctions since 2006 over its nuclear and missile programs. Pyongyang has firmly defended its military programs as a deterrent against the hostile policies of the US and its regional allies, including South Korea and Japan.
Earlier this month, China and other countries blocked a US-drafted UNSC joint statement against North Korea’s missile launches, and urged Washington to be more flexible in dealings with Pyongyang.
During a closed-door UNSC meeting held on February 4 at Washington’s request, China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun insisted that the key to easing tensions with North Korea was in the hands of the US, saying, “If they do want to see some new breakthrough, they should show more sincerity and flexibility.”
“They should come up with more attractive and more practical, more flexible approaches, policies and actions and accommodating the concerns of the DPRK,” Zhang added in a press briefing after the meeting.
However, he complained, “We have seen a vicious circle of confrontation, condemnation, sanctions.”
The US had proposed a UNSC statement censuring Pyongyang’s testing of seven weapons in January -- including its most powerful missile since 2017 -- which were in response to persisting US-led military threats and war games targeting the country.
However, China, Russia and other nations refused to sign on to it, prompting Washington to claim that the council’s “ongoing silence” would further encourage North Korea to defy the international community.
Back in January, Kim had protested new US sanctions against Pyongyang as well as its persisting military cooperation with rival South Korea, calling on officials to “examine” the issue of resuming long-range missile and nuclear testing after he imposed a moratorium on such activities in early 2018.
The administration of US President Joe Biden imposed its latest sanctions against Pyongyang last month. It further called on the UNSC to take action against several North Korean individuals and entities accused of violating resolutions that ban the North's missile and nuclear weapons development.
Reacting to the move, a Pyongyang’s foreign ministry spokesperson emphasized in a statement last month that the new US sanctions underscore hostile American intent aimed at "isolating and stifling" North Korea despite Washington's repeated calls for the North to resume diplomacy.
"The US is intentionally escalating the situation even with the activation of independent sanctions, not content with referring the DPRK's just activity to the UN Security Council," the statement said.
The spokesperson said that the North's development of the new missile is part of its efforts to modernize its military and explained that it does not target any specific country or threaten the security of its neighbors.