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Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
A top North Korean military official at Beijing meetings with Chinese counterparts over the weekend pledged to improve ties between the two countries’ armed forces, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Monday.
Kim Su Gil, who serves as Director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), arrived in Beijing on Friday.
He and other DPRK officials then met with Zhang Youxia, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the following day at the Bayi Building, KCNA said.
Zhang reportedly hailed the delegation’s visit as being of “crucial significance in bilateral exchange.”
Friendly ties between the two countries, he continued, had entered a “new historic chapter” in the wake of five summits between DPRK leader Kim Jong Un and Chinese President Xi Jinping between March 2018 and June this year.
“He stressed that it is a consistent and unyielding policy of China to further consolidate and successfully develop China-DPRK relations,” KCNA reported.
The North Korean military delegation also participated in a reception hosted by Zhang, though state media did not report on Kim’s remarks at the meeting.
Beijing Ministry of National Defense also confirmed a meeting was held Saturday afternoon, in a statement in which Zhang was quoted as having said the Chinese military would work to consolidate the “understanding” agreed to by the two countries earlier in the year.
The Chinese vice chairman also expressed Beijing’s intention to “strengthen communication and promote cooperation and mutual support by taking the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.”
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA), Zhang said, will strive to “actively contribute to the solid development of bilateral relations and regional peace and stability.”
June’s fifth summit between Kim and Xi saw the two leaders agree to “maintain the tradition of high-level exchange” and “deepen exchanges and cooperation in each field.”
The visit by the North Korean military delegation saw the two sides reportedly continue to build on that agreement.
It also comes ahead of the 70th anniversary of the two countries’ establishing diplomatic ties, which falls on October 6 this year.
Bilateral ties between the two countries have been “continuously strengthened,” Kim said, adding that the maintenance of that friendship is the “unwavering stance” of the Workers Party of Korea (WPK), as well as the government and the military.
“The DPRK is willing to work with China to strengthen friendly exchanges between the two armed forces in various fields… learn from each other, and promote the relations between the two countries and the two armed forces to a high level,” he said.
The Chinese defense ministry on Saturday said the North Korean military had begun an “official goodwill visit” on Friday on the invitation of Admiral Miao Hua, who serves as director of the Political Work Department of China’s CMC.
Kim and Miao also held talks Saturday afternoon at the Bayi Building — their first meeting since the June Sino-DPRK summit.
That meeting saw the top North Korean military official express his desire “to develop the friendly and cooperative relations between the armies of the DPRK and China to a higher level in line with the lofty intentions” of the two countries’ leaders, KCNA reported.
Miao, in turn, said President Xi and the CMC placed “great importance” on the “very significant” visit by the North Korean delegation.
Bilateral friendly relations “have developed on a new level” after a series of meetings between the leaders, Miao told Kim, adding the ties had been “further strengthened in the 70 years of ordeal and difficulty.”
“He emphasized that [China], with the Korean comrades, will strengthen and develop bilateral relations by realizing the common understandings of the top leaders of the two countries,” KCNA quoted Miao as having said.
The North Korean military delegation was welcomed to Beijing with a ceremony in front of the Bayi Building, North Korean state media said, with Miao, Chinese military officials, and staff members from the North Korean embassy in Beijing in attendance.
The Chinese also held a reception at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse on Friday evening.
North Korean media on Sunday also reported the delegation had met with the Chinese head of the International Liaison Department of the CPC Central Committee Song Tao the previous day, though did not provide further details.
The talks came around one month after Song — seen as a key Sino-DPRK interlocutor — held talks with North Korean first vice director at the International Department of the Party Central Committee Kim Song Nam in Beijing in July.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: KCNA