Kim Jong Un gives grand banquet for visit of Chinese art troupe

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(G.N.S) DT.15 North Korean leader Kim Jong-un personally greeted senior Chinese diplomat Song Tao in Pyongyang today, state media reported.

Song is leading a Chinese art troupe that has been in North Korea since Friday.

The North's official KCNA news agency said Mr Kim welcomed Mr Song and his delegation in a meeting on Saturday at which Mr Song conveyed Mr Xi's "warm greetings".

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After making rapid strides in its weapons programmes past year, when intercontinental ballistic missile launches and its most powerful nuclear blast to date earned it several new sets of UN Security Council sanctions, Pyongyang does not want anything to spoil the atmosphere now that talks are at hand.

The art troupe performed on Saturday at the Mansudae Art Theatre, and the North Korean leader Kim's wife Ri Sol Ju watched a ballet 'Giselle, ' performed by the National Ballet of China, but Kim was not present, the KCNA said.

State-run television aired footage of Kim's meeting with Song Tao, the chief of China's Communist Party's International Department, in Pyongyang on Saturday. Sent by President Xi Jinping to discuss the outcome of China's 19th Party Congress, Song had returned home without meeting Kim Jong-un.

Kim made his first visit to China in March, in a secret trip that reopened ties between the two governments after years of strained relations due to Beijing's opposition to Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme and support of global sanctions against North Korea.

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China is North Korea's strongest economic and military ally, but their relationship cooled after Beijing joined sanctions past year.

Song also suggested that Seoul, Beijing, and Moscow establish a cooperative body to effectively develop border areas after peace settles on the Korean Peninsula. North Korean media has since been lauding ties with China, a move that local analysts believe is Pyongyang's effort to build negotiating power with the United States when Kim meets President Donald Trump in May or June for the first summit between a North Korean and American leader.

Kim also hosted a banquet for the Chinese delegation, in which officials from the two sides toasted to their shared will "to more beautifully decorate the flower garden of the DPRK-China friendship".

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