China’s Xi Jinping stresses friendly ties with North Korea

US treasury further restricts Pyongyang’s access to the international banking system

China’s President Xi Jinping (R) meets with Ri Su Yong, one of North Korea’s highest-profile officials. Photograph: Pang Xinglei/Xinhua

China’s President Xi Jinping (R) meets with Ri Su Yong, one of North Korea’s highest-profile officials. Photograph: Pang Xinglei/Xinhua

 

China’s president Xi Jinping has stressed the importance of “friendly” ties with its ideological ally North Korea, during a visit by a high-ranking Pyongyang official, as the US treasury has shut down the North’s access to international banks.

Though the two countries are considered “as close as lips and teeth”, relations have been strained since North Korea staged its fourth nuclear test in January and a satellite launch in February.

Mr Xi said he hoped all parties on the Korean peninsula would remain calm after the North staged another failed missile test.

China signed up to a tough round of new UN sanctions against North Korea in March.

Mr Xi met with a visiting delegation of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Wednesday, led by Ri Su-yong, who delivered a verbal message from Kim Jong-un, the Xinhua news agency reported. DPRK is the official title of the country.

Mr Xi told the North Korean envoy that China attached great store to the friendly relationship between the two countries, and was willing to work with North Korea to consolidate that friendship.

“China’s position on the peninsula issue is clear and consistent. We hope all sides remain calm and exercise restraint, increase communication and dialogue and maintain regional peace and stability,” the foreign ministry quoted Mr Xi as saying.

Mr Ri told the Chinese that his country’s nuclear programme was “permanent”.

The US Treasury this week designated North Korea as a “primary money laundering concern”. The Treasury is seeking a prohibition on certain US financial institutions opening or maintaining correspondent accounts, which are established to receive deposits from or make payments on behalf of a foreign institution, with North Korean financial institutions. The measure is similar to the 2005 blacklisting of Banco Delta Asia (BDA), a bank in Macau.

An editorial in the state-owned Global Times newspaper said that North Korean ties were at “a low ebb” due to Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test in January and as China joined with the UN to impose tough sanctions on it.

However, it said that China wanted to ease tensions and keep their relationship close.

“Under the circumstances that China also endorses heavy sanctions on North Korea, many international forces are inciting confrontation between the two and trying to make their divergences into the main source of conflict in Northeast Asia, ” the Global Times newspaper said in an editorial.

“Ri’s visit shows that both China and North Korea are rationally keeping away from this trap.”

In a meeting in Tokyo, the South Korean, US and Japanese negotiators in long-stalled six-party nuclear talks with North Korea agreed that increasing pressure rather than negotiations was necessary in dealing with North Korea.

“Firm international pressure needs to continue” to get North Korea to scrap its nuclear weapons and missile programmes, said South Korea’s chief negotiator Kim Hong-kyun.