North Korea was expected to seek more support from its ally and benefactor China as it grapples with economic difficulties and crippling US-led sanctions over its nuclear weapons program.

Published: July 11, 2021 14:32 |

Last updated: July 11, 2021 2:32 PM

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In this file photo from June 20, 2019, provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (right) poses with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Pyongyang, North Korea. (File photo | AP)

SEOUL: North Korean and Chinese leaders expressed their desire to further strengthen their ties on Sunday when they exchanged messages on the 60th anniversary of their countries’ defense treaties.

In a message North Korean leader Kim Jong Un told Chinese President Xi Jinping that it was “the firm position” of his government to “ceaselessly develop friendly and cooperative relations between the countries,” the Korean state-run Central News Agency said.

Xi said in his message that China and North Korea “have steadfastly supported each other,” according to the official Chinese news agency Xinhua.

“The world has seen accelerated changes recently that have been unprecedented in the last century,” Xi said . “I want to … cause bilateral relations to rise to a new level incessantly for the benefit of the two countries and their peoples.”

North Korea was expected to gain more support from China, its most important ally and benefactor, seeks as it grapples with economic hardship exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and crippling US-led sanctions over its nuclear weapons program. For its part, China sees preventing North Korea from collapsing as critical to its security interests and needs to strengthen ties with North Korea and other traditional allies amid a fierce rivalry with the US, say some experts.

Kim said in his message that the bilateral Treaty “shows his greater vitality in defending and advancing the socialist cause of the two countries … now that the enemy forces are becoming more desperate in their challenges and obstacles”.

In the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Aid From 1961, North Korea and China undertake to offer each other immediate military and other assistance in the event of an attack.

Relations between North Korea and China go back to the 1930s when Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of Kim Jong Un , led Korean guerrillas fighting with Chinese soldiers against Jap Anic colonizers in northeast China fought. The two countries established diplomatic relations in 1949, a year before North Korea launched a surprise attack on South Korea and began a three-year war that killed hundreds of thousands.

China fought alongside North Korea during the Korean War of 1950-53, during the US-led UN forces supported South Korea. Around 28,500 US soldiers are still stationed in South Korea to deter potential aggression from North Korea. China is not stationing troops in North Korea.

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