The leaders of North Korea and China have exchanged messages pledging to strengthen cooperation on the 60th anniversary of the signing of their Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance.
In a message to Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said their relationship was vital in the face of hostile foreign forces, while Xi promised to bring cooperation “to a new stage”, according to North Korea’s KCNA news agency.
China has been North Korea’s only key ally since the two sides signed the treaty in 1961, and international sanctions imposed over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes have made it more dependent than ever on Beijing for trade and other support.
The friendship pact calls on the two countries to come to each other’s assistance should either side come under attack.
“Despite the unprecedentedly complicated international situation in recent years the comradely trust and militant friendship between the DPRK and China get stronger day by day,” Kim said in his message, KCNA reported, using the initials for North Korea’s official name.
The treaty is defending socialism and peace in Asia “now that the hostile forces become more desperate in their challenge and obstructive moves”, Kim said.
Xi’s message said he plans to provide greater happiness to the two countries and their people by strengthening communication with Kim and “by steadily leading the relations of friendship and cooperation between the two countries to a new stage”, KCNA said.
The China-North Korea treaty has a validity of 20 years and was renewed in 1981 and 2001.
NK News, a website that monitors North Korea, said it expected Xi and Kim to extend the treaty for another 20 years.
Xi and Kim’s exchange of messages is the latest sign of renewed ties between the neighbours, which analysts say is aimed at the United States amid gridlocked nuclear talks between Pyongyang and Washington and worsening US-Beijing tensions.
“It’s a marriage of convenience,” Park Won-gon, professor of North Korean Studies at Ewha Womans University, told the AFP news agency.
The two allies’ relations have had discord since the end of the Korean War, he added, and they will “never really trust each other”.
But they need each other to deal with Washington, Park added.
“And the closer they get, the harder it will be to denuclearise North Korea.”