5 Oct 2009

China, North Korea vow to strengthen ties

6:53 pm on 5 October 2009

China and North Korea have vowed to strengthen their relationship, saying their traditional ties are important for peace.

The joint commitment came in the course of the first official visit to Pyongyang by Chinese prime minister Wen Jiabao.

The relationship between the two countries came under strain after North Korea pulled out of the Chinese-hosted six-nation talks on nuclear disarmament.

Chinese state television says North Korean leader Kim Jong-il told Mr Wen that his government had not given up hope of ridding the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons and was open to "bilateral and multilateral dialogue".

But he gave no assurance that North Korea would rejoin the negotiations.

The BBC reports that Mr Wen's visit is being keenly watched for progress on the nuclear issue. In recent weeks Pyongyang has issued conciliatory statements, suggesting it could resume negotiations.

China is North Korea's biggest trading partner and holds the greatest sway over the communist regime.