Kim meets Chinese official, calls for strengthening ties

Local residents worried that the large appearing of toads was a sign of impending earthquake

Local residents worried that the large appearing of toads was a sign of impending earthquake

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has met with a Chinese official leading an art troupe to Pyongyang and exchanged views on "important matters of mutual concern", the North's state-run media reported on Sunday.

Members of the troupe, as well as China's ambassador to North Korea Li Jinjun, attended the banquet, which had a "warm and lively atmosphere", KCNA said.

The North Korean leader on Saturday "warmly" greeted Song Tao and the Chinese delegation visiting Pyongyang to perform and also expressed his greetings to Chinese President Xi Jinping after Song conveyed Xi's greetings to Kim, the North's official Korea Central News Agency said.

In late March, Kim made a rare visit to Beijing and met Xi, Kim's first known journey overseas since he took power in 2011.

Kim met Song Tao, head of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee's global department, who was leading an art troupe to a spring festival in the North's capital.

Kim and Song also exchanged their views on deepening the bilateral relations, the KCNA claimed.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un did not attend the meeting.

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It's yet another sign of Kim's supposed willingness to improve global tensions, with planned meetings with South Korean officials and Donald Trump.

More high-level exchanges and cooperation will follow between Beijing and Pyongyang, the report cited Kim as saying.

Beijing is North Korea's sole major ally, an alliance dating back to the 1950-1953 Korean War, but relations deteriorated after China supported United Nations sanctions to punish Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons programme.

Another photograph showed a North Korean orchestra performing in front of a screen onto which was projected a large image of Xi.

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.

"North Korea is using a hedging strategy", said Boo Seung-chan, a research fellow at the Yonsei Institute for North Korean Studies in Seoul.

"First Lady Ri Sol-ju enjoyed the ballet choreodrama Giselle by the National Ballet of China", the report said, adding that she held "friendly talks" with the guests ahead of the performance.

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