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China, North Korea reaffirm ties after rocket test

Chinese President Hu Jintao met with a top North Korean envoy in a reaffirmation of traditional ties following Chinese pique over Pyongyang's recent attempted rocket launch.

State broadcaster CCTV made no mention of the failed April 13 launch in its report on Hu's meeting Monday with Workers' Party international relations chief Kim Yong Il at the Great Hall of the People in the heart of Beijing.

Hu sent his congratulations to North Korea's young new leader Kim Jong Un on his assuming the title of Workers' Party first secretary and said strengthening ties with North Korea was a key priority for China's ruling communists.

``We will carry on this tradition ... boost strategic communication and coordination on key international issues and work for peace and stability on the Korean peninsula,'' CCTV quoted Hu, who also leads the Chinese Communist Party, as saying.

Kim Jong Un concurred in a statement carried late Monday by the official Korean Central News Agency. ``It is the steadfast stand of our party and government to invariably develop the traditional DPRK-China friendship provided and cultivated by the leaders of elder generations of the two countries,'' the statement said.

The high-profile reception for Kim's envoy illustrates how Beijing is determined to maintain strong ties with its communist neighbor despite exasperation over its provocations against the South and Pyongyang's refusal to embark on economic reforms that would reduce its dependency on foreign aid.

China is the North's biggest diplomatic ally and source of economic assistance, and it has opposed new U.N. economic sanctions over Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs. However, Beijing has signed on to previous rounds of sanctions and did nothing to block U.N. condemnation of the launch of the Unha-3 long-range rocket that exploded shortly after liftoff.

Washington, Seoul and others called the launch a cover for testing long-range missile technology. North Korea said the launch was meant to put a satellite into orbit. The U.S. suspended food aid to North Korea after the failed launch.

Indications that North Korea is digging a tunnel in preparation for a third nuclear test pose a new threat to stable relations.

Hu's meeting with Kim came as North Korea's military said Monday it will launch ``special actions'' soon meant to wipe out conservative South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's administration.

The army statement carried by state media said the actions would last 3 to 4 minutes and be carried out ``by unprecedented peculiar means and methods of our own style.'' It gave no more details.

North Korea has issued a steady stream of harsh criticism of Lee and his government. Pyongyang says Lee insulted the North's recent celebrations of the birth centennial of national founder Kim Il Sung. (AP)