BEIJING -- China's No. 4-ranked official emphasized the country's friendly relationship with North Korea during his surprise visit to the North's embassy in Beijing on Thursday, sources said.
Wang Yang, a member of the Chinese Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee and chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, praised the family of North Korea's founder Kim Il-sung and its outcome as a socialist country during his address at the embassy's reception to celebrate the North's 70th founding anniversary.
"Unlike last year, when the bilateral relations were strained over nuclear and missile problems, last night's reception was filled with Chinese and North Korean officials and a festive mood prevailed," a source said Friday.
"North Korean diplomats were also greatly encouraged by the visit of the fourth-highest Chinese official."
Wang, the highest Chinese official ever to attend the North's national day reception, said at the beginning of his address that he attended the reception at the request of Chinese President Xi Jinping, apparently signaling the Beijing leadership's wish to further cement ties with Pyongyang.
Wang said that North Korea has accomplished great results in the construction of socialism under the guidance of founder Kim, former leader Kim Jong-il and incumbent leader Kim Jong-un and the North's future is now much brighter due to its shift of policy to economic development.
He then emphasized that the two countries would further solidify and develop their relationship following Xi and Kim Jong-un's three meetings this year.
In response, North Korea's ambassador to Beijing, Ji Jae-ryong, said that the traditional friendship between the two countries will remain unchanged forever and more efforts will have to be made to further improve relationship.
The sources say the exchanges of friendly remarks between Chinese and North Korean officials indicate the imminent Pyongyang visit by China's No. 3-ranked official, Li Zhanshu, may produce some tangible outcomes in bilateral friendship and economic cooperation.
Li, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China, plans to fly to Pyongyang Saturday to attend the North's founding anniversary event.
A Chinese economic and trade delegation arrived in the North on Thursday.
"Amid the strengthening of US sanctions, Chinese-North Korean trade has shown signs of being revitalized, particularly in border areas. Many Chinese companies have already entered North Korea to seek new business opportunities," said a source.(Yonhap)