China has asked North Korea to join its ambitious Silk Road project to revive the ancient trade route between Asia and Europe.
Chinese ambassador to North Korea, Li Jinjun, made the request on Tuesday when he held a meeting with North Korea's Minister of Foreign Trade, Ri Ryong-nam in Pyongyang, according to a statement posted on the website for the Chinese Embassy in North Korea.
With a US$40 billion fund, China has aggressively pushed the so-called "One Belt, One Road" initiative aimed at building ports, expressways, railways and other infrastructure with its neighboring countries.
"Ambassador Li introduced the concept and vision of 'One Belt, One Road' and hopes the two sides will work together to seize the opportunity to promote China-North Korea economic and trade cooperation," the statement said.
Li said, "Developing friendly and cooperative relations with North Korea is the unswerving policy of the party and the government of China. China is ready to work together with North Korea."
The statement did not say how the North Korean minister responded.
Political ties between North Korea and China remain strained due to the North's defiant pursuit of nuclear weapons, but China is the North's economic lifeline and diplomatic backer at the United Nations.
Both North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to visit Moscow early next month to attend the May 9 celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of the end of the World War in Europe.
North Korea has made no comments on Kim's possible visit to Moscow. However, if Kim visits Moscow, it will be his first overseas trip since taking power in 2011.
Asked whether China is preparing for a bilateral meeting between Kim and Xi in Moscow, China's foreign ministry spokesman replied on Thursday, "As for the meeting between the two leaders, it depends on the two sides' convenience." (Yonhap)