SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – North Korean and Chinese leaders on Sunday expressed their desire to further strengthen their ties as they exchanged messages to mark the 60th anniversary of their country’s defense treaty.
In a message to Chinese President Xi Jinping, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said his government’s “firm position” is to “continuously develop friendly and cooperative relations between the countries,” the state-run government said. Korean Central News Agency.
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 recently seen accelerated changes that were unprecedented in the past century,” Xi said. “I want to … lead bilateral relations to rise unceasingly to new levels for the benefit of the two countries and their peoples.”
North Korea is expected to seek greater support from China, its main ally and benefactor, as it grapples with economic hardship exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and crippling US-led sanctions on its nuclear weapons program. China, for its part, considers preventing a North Korean collapse as crucial to its security interests and should strengthen ties with North Korea and other traditional allies amid fierce rivalry with the United States, some experts say.
Kim said in his message that the bilateral treaty “shows its increased vitality in defending and pushing the socialist cause of the two countries … as the hostile forces become more desperate in their challenge and obstructive moves.”
Under the 1961 Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, North Korea and China committed themselves to provide each other with immediate (military) aid in the event of an attack.
North Korea’s ties to China date back to the 1930s, when Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un’s grandfather, led Korean guerrillas as they fought alongside Chinese soldiers against Japanese colonizers in northeast China. The two countries established diplomatic relations in 1949, a year before North Korea launched a surprise attack on South Korea and started a three-year war that killed hundreds of thousands of people.
China fought on the side of North Korea during the 1950-53 Korean War, while US-led UN forces supported South Korea. About 28,500 US soldiers are still stationed in South Korea to deter possible aggression from North Korea. China does not deploy troops in North Korea.