China's Xi says intends to deepen relations with North Korea: KCNA
By Josh Smith
SEOUL (Reuters) - In a congratulatory message to Kim Jong Un on the founding anniversary of the ruling North Korea party, Chinese President Xi Jinping said he intended to deepen relations with Pyongyang, North Korean state media reported on Saturday.
"We intend to successfully defend, consolidate and further develop the relations between China and Korea together with Korean comrades and to promote the lasting and stable development of the socialist cause of the two countries", quoted the North Korean state news agency KCNA Xi.
Saturday will mark the 75th anniversary of the ruling Korean Workers' Party. Events are expected to include a major military parade that may see some of North Korea's long-range ballistic missiles deployed for the first time since 2018.
Xi said he was "very pleased" with the successes North Korea has achieved in working with overseas over the past few years in the face of difficulties and challenges, KCNA reported.
After years of chilly relations in which China, along with the US and other nations, imposed sanctions on North Korea for its nuclear weapons and missile programs, Xi and Kim met five times in 2018 and 2019. North Korea's diplomatic offensive included meeting Kim with US President Donald Trump.
While North Korea claims it has not had any confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, strict border closings and other measures to prevent an outbreak have continued to weigh on its economy, which is heavily reliant on trade with China.
(Reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Leslie Adler and Grant McCool)
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