(2nd LD) Xi congratulates N.K. leader on state founding anniversary, stresses stronger ties
(ATTN: ADDS more info in paras 9-15)
By Yi Wonju
SEOUL, Sept. 9 (Yonhap) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping highlighted growing ties with North Korea since the coronavirus outbreak in a congratulatory message sent to leader Kim Jong-un on the occasion the North's founding anniversary, according to state media Wednesday.
North Korea marks the 72nd anniversary of its state founding Wednesday as it has been intensifying efforts to strengthen ties with China during the global coronavirus pandemic amid stalemated nuclear talks with Washington.
Pyongyang has frequently praised Beijing's success in stemming the spread of the virus since it first broke out in China last December.
"After the outbreak of COVID-19, the two countries have supported and helped each other, further developing the China-DPRK friendship," Xi said in a message carried by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
Xi added that he gives "high priority to the development of China-DPRK relations and have a willingness to propel the traditional China-DPRK friendly and cooperative relations."
DPRK stands for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Russian President Vladimir Putin also sent a congratulatory message to Kim, stressing the close ties between the two countries, the KCNA said.
Putin also said the relations between the two countries have been of "friendly and good-neighborly nature traditionally" and the "constructive bilateral dialogue and beneficial cooperation" are in the interests of the two countries and contribute to promoting security and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the region, it added.
North Korea appears to be marking this year's anniversary without holding any celebratory events, as the country has been struggling to recover from damage wrought by recent back-to-back typhoons.
Typhoon Bavi lashed one of its major rice-producing regions in the southwestern province of Hwanghae in late August before Maysak pounded the eastern provinces of Hamgyong and Kangwon last week. State media earlier reported that the typhoon caused dozens of causalities and damaged more than 1,000 houses.
Typhoon Haishen, the 10th tropical storm of the season, hit its eastern region again this week.
"We need to finish our recovery efforts from the flood as soon as possible and push ahead to help provide stability and greater happiness to those suffering from the disaster," the Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North's ruling party, said Wednesday.
The paper also said a division consisting of 12,000 party members in Pyongyang on Tuesday gathered in front of the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, the mausoleum where the bodies of Kim's late grandfather and father are enshrined, and held a rally before heading to the typhoon-hit Hamgyong Province to help with recovery efforts.
It has been a tradition on national anniversaries for Kim to pay a visit to the mausoleum, but no such visits have been reported by state media yet.
The North usually holds larger events on every fifth or 10th anniversary, with a military parade featuring newly developed weapons.
No unusual military activities have been detected in the North, military sources in Seoul said.
"We are closely monitoring North Korean military movements. There have not been specific moves to be noted so far regarding the anniversary," a military officer said.
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