(ATTN: ADDS KCNA's English-language report in paras 5-6)
SEOUL, Oct. 23 (Yonhap) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping has reaffirmed efforts to strengthen bilateral relations with North Korea, Pyongyang's state media reported Saturday.
Xi made the remarks in a reply to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's earlier letter to mark the 72nd Chinese National Day, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
In the reply, Xi said he has highly taken note of relations between North Korea and China, and expressed his willingness to raise bilateral ties to a "new level."
North Korea and China have emphasized their close relations amid stalemated nuclear talks between Pyongyang and Washington, and an escalating Sino-U.S. rivalry.
Xi expressed "intent to steadily propel the relations to a new stage by strengthening strategic communications, deepening the friendship and cooperation and leading them to be conducive to mutual support through joint endeavors with Kim Jong Un," according to the KCNA report.
Xi also noted that North Korea and China "are linked by the same mountain and rivers, and the traditional friendship between the two countries is getting more solid over time," the report said.
Previously, Kim vowed to raise the Pyongyang-Beijing "friendship to a new strategic point as required by the times and as desired by the peoples of the two countries."
China fought alongside the North against South Korean, U.S. and United Nations troops during the Korean War that ended in an armistice on July 27, 1953. Sunday marks the 70th anniversary of China's entry into the war.
North Korea has been seeking to maintain closer ties with its traditional ally amid an impasse in nuclear negotiations with the United States.
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