North Korean leader meets senior Chinese official

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The Chinese art troupe, led by Song, the head of the Communist Party's International Department, left for North Korea on Friday for an April Spring Friendship Art Festival.

This picture taken on April 14, 2018 and released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 15 shows North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (L), shaking hands with Song Tao (R), head of the International Liaison Department of the Communist Party of China, leading a Chinese art troupe, in Pyongyang, North Korea.

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Kim was quoted as saying that he "would positively carry forward and develop the traditional DPRK-China friendship into a fresh phase of development as required by a new era by further strengthening of the bilateral relations between the two parties including exchange of high-level delegations and undertaking the brisk cooperation and visits in various fields and sectors".

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.

Jeong Se-hyun, a former unification minister of South Korea, said Song's visit might have helped to strengthen Beijing's claims to a seat at the table in any negotiations of a formal peace treaty on the Korean peninsula.

Song and Kim discussed the "international situation" and exchanged views on the two countries' "common interests", the KCNA report said.

North Korea's relationship with its sole ally during the 1950-1953 Korean war had strained when China pushed United Nations to punish Pyongyang for its nuclear weapons programme.

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

In response, Song vowed to make "a fresh contribution to promoting the prolonged and stable development of the China-DPRK relations".

State-run media have often reported on Ri accompanying Kim at official events, but he did not attend Saturday's performance.

"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.

The two leaders reached important consensus and the meeting achieved fruitful results, he said.

When nuclear-armed North Korea put on a flower show a year ago to celebrate the birthday of its founder Kim Il Sung, scale model rockets were on display.