China's Xi sends rare message to N Korea's Kim
Beijing: Chinese President Xi Jinping has sent North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un a rare message "out of politeness," Beijing said on Thursday, in his first public communication with his wayward neighbour for more than a year.
The note signalled a possible improvement in their strained relationship, which has soured over Pyongyang's growing weapons ambitions even though Beijing is its longtime ally and economic benefactor.
Xi's message, dated Wednesday, was sent in response to congratulations from Kim last week for securing a second term as the head of China's ruling party. "I wish that under the new situation the Chinese side would make efforts with the DPRK side to promote the relations between the two parties and the two countries to sustainable soundness and stable development," Xi said, according to the North's KCNA news agency, addressing Kim as "Comrade Chairman".
In his earlier note, Kim had offered Xi his "sincere congratulations" and expressed his belief that their relations would develop "in the interests of the people of the two countries".
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular press briefing in Beijing on Thursday that North Korea's message was just one among many others received. Xi had responded "out of politeness," she said.
The last time KCNA reported a message from Xi was in July 2016. Analysts say that such exchanges have become extremely rare under the current leaders, even though Beijing and Pyongyang traditionally sent greetings and congratulations to each other in the past.