(ATTN: ADDS unification ministry official's comments, other info in last 3 paras)
By Koh Byung-joon
SEOUL, March 23 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called for stronger strategic communication and unity with China to address "hostile forces" in a message to Chinese President Xi Jinping, state media said Tuesday.
Kim sent the message "to notify the accounts of the 8th Congress of the WPK, as required by the times that call for intensifying the strategic communication between the two parties on the basis of deep comradeship," the Korean Central News Agency said, without mentioning when the message was sent. WPK is the Workers' Party of Korea.
"It stressed the need to strengthen the unity and cooperation between the two parties and two countries to cope with the hostile forces' all-round challenges and obstructive moves," KCNA added.
Kim described in detail the measures that North Korea took during the party congress in January, including "policy stand on the bolstering of defense capabilities of the country, the inter-Korean relations and the DPRK-U.S. relations.
DPRK stands for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Kim also expressed belief that cooperation between North Korea and China will get stronger "as required by the times and in conformity with the desires, wishes and core interests" of the two countries, KCNA said.
KCNA said that Xi also stressed that the traditional China-North Korea friendship is a "valuable asset" both to the two countries and vowed to make "positive contributions" to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula in his verbal message to leader Kim.
"Saying that the international and regional situations are undergoing grave changes, he expressed his willingness to make new positive contributions to defending peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and achieving peace, stability, development and prosperity in the region," he added, according to KCNA.
The latest exchange of messages appears aimed at strengthening relations between the allies amid Beijing's deepening rivalry with the United States and stalled denuclearization talks between Pyongyang and Washington.
Last week, North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui issued a statement, saying the North will continue to ignore contact for talks unless Washington gives up its hostile policy toward Pyongyang.
A unification ministry official in Seoul declined to offer an assessment but said that North Korea and China have exchanged such messages on the occasion of major anniversaries and political events.
The two leaders exchanged verbal or written messages a total of seven times since Kim took office in late 2011. Kim sent a verbal message to Xi in 2016 after the North held its seventh party congress, and he also delivered a letter last year to laud Xi's successful efforts to fight the coronavirus, according to the official.
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