North Korean leader Kim Jong Un personally greeted a top Chinese official in Pyongyang and called for stronger ties with Beijing, state media reported yesterday, as the allies seek to heal battered relations. 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.
Song is leading a Chinese art troupe attending a spring art festival held as part of the commemorations for the anniversary of the birth of the North's founder Kim Il Sung on April 15, 1912.
During the meeting with Song, Kim also said he would "positively carry forward and develop the traditional North Korea-China friendship into a fresh phase of development" by "further strengthening of the bilateral relations", KCNA reported.
After making rapid strides in its weapons programmes past year, when intercontinental ballistic missile launches and its most powerful nuclear blast to date earned it several new sets of UN Security Council sanctions, Pyongyang does not want anything to spoil the atmosphere now that talks are at hand.
In his meeting with Song, Kim said he hoped the occasion would herald a "new era" of cultural and people-to-people exchanges between the two countries.
That contrasts with Song's last visit to Pyongyang last November, when he was sent as Xi's special enjoy to discuss the outcome of China's 19th Party Congress. Song returned to Beijing without meeting Kim. In attendance were China's ambassador to North Korea, Li Jinjun, and other diplomats from the embassy, as well as Kim Yo-jong, Kim Jong-un's younger sister and first vice director of the Workers' Party's Central Committee, and other top-ranking North Korean officials.
"In March, Kim visited Beijing, his first visit overseas since ascending to power in 2011".
Song met several North Korean officials, including Choe, but not Kim.
Song also suggested that Seoul, Beijing, and Moscow establish a cooperative body to effectively develop border areas after peace settles on the Korean Peninsula.
Mr Kim is expected to hold summits with South Korean President Moon Jae In this month and US President Donald Trump in the following weeks.
North Korea and China seem to be celebrating closer ties, with Kim Jong Un putting on a banquet today.