A high level North Korean delegation turned up in Beijing unannounced this week and met with Chinese President Xi Jinping — the first time a North Korean official has met China’s leader since 2013.
The meeting between top North Korean diplomat Ri Su Yong and Xi caught North Korea watchers by surprise.
On paper, China is North Korea’s closest and most powerful ally but it’s is no secret that relations between Beijing and Pyongyang have been at a low point in recent years.
According to official media reports, the Workers’ Party of Korea delegation headed by Ri Su Yong, delivered a message from North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong Un. It expressed “the hope to strengthen and develop bilateral friendship and to maintain peace and stability in the region.”
Ri reaffirmed that North Korea would continue its ‘two front lines policy” of developing nuclear weaponry in tandem with reinvigorating its isolated and stagnating economy.
Xinhua, China’s official news agency gave few details, but the landmark meeting can be interpreted as a slight thawing in the frosty relations between historical and ideological friends.
Beijing is also sending a message to the U.S. and South Korea that, despite misgivings, it is not abandoning its old ally and all parties are going to have to get used to that.