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Top N. Korean officials watch friendly basketball match with China

All Headlines 11:25 October 12, 2018

SEOUL, Oct. 12 (Yonhap) -- North Korea and China held a friendly basketball match in Pyongyang on Thursday attended by top North Korean officials, including the de facto No. 2 official Choe Ryong-hae, Pyongyang's media reported Friday.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said that a joint men's basketball game between players from China's sports delegation on a goodwill visit to Pyongyang and the North's men basketball players was held at the Ryugyong Jong Ju Yong Indoor Stadium.

Besides Choe, who is vice chairman of the State Affairs Commission, vice chairmen of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea Ri Su-yong, An Jong-su and Choe Hwi; Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho; and Vice Premier Ro Tu-chol were on hand to watch the basketball game, the KCNA reported.

Choe Ryong-hae didn't show up at a joint game of the two countries' women's basketball players in Pyongyang on Tuesday.

Women's basketball players from North Korea and China enter the Ryugyong Jong Ju Yong Indoor Stadium in Pyongyang on Oct. 10, 2018, for a friendly match. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (KCNA-Yonhap)

Ahead of the men's game, Choe met with the Chinese delegation and received its gift for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the agency said.

Choe accompanied Kim on his two China visits this year and made several trips to Beijing in his capacity as Kim's special envoy.

From China, Gou Zhongwen, minister of the General Administration of Sports; Li Jinjun, Chinese ambassador to the North; and Chinese embassy officials attended the friendly basketball match, it noted. Chinese basketball hero Yao Ming was also part of the Chinese sports delegation.

Analysts in Seoul speculate that the presence of top North Korean officials at a friendly basketball game seems to signal Pyongyang's intent to further consolidate its relationship with Beijing amid rapid changes on the Korean Peninsula.

Indeed, the KCNA quoted North Korea's sports minister Kim Il-guk and China's Gou as saying in speeches that the "significant game" would contribute to exchanging good techniques and experience between the athletes of the two countries and to demonstrating the bonds of the North-China friendship.

Following the game, which ended in a draw, the Chinese sports delegation visited the Friendship Tower and laid a floral basket, according to the KCNA.

"The members of the delegation observed a moment's silence in memory of the martyrs of the Chinese People's Volunteers who displayed matchless bravery and self-sacrificing spirit on the Korean front for beating back the imperialists' invasion under the uplifted banner of resisting America and aiding Korea, safeguarding the home and defending the motherland," the KCNA said in an English dispatch.

The Chinese minister wrote in a visitor's book that "China-DPRK (North Korea) friendship sealed in blood will be everlasting!" the KCNA said.


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