China vows to stand by North Korea
China vowed to strengthen bonds with North Korea, saying on Monday that its traditional ties with the isolated state were a boon to peace, Reuters reported.
The renewed commitment between the two communist neighbors came in messages between President Hu Jintao as well as other Chinese leaders and North Korea's top leader, Kim Jong-il, who on Sunday greeted Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at the start of a visit focused on bolstering bilateral relations.
The messages marked 60 years since the two countries established formal ties on October 6, 1949, and did not mention North Korea's nuclear weapons program, instead stressing their focus on shoring up sometimes tense bilateral relations.
"History demonstrates that developing China-North Korea relations is in keeping with the fundamental interests and shared wishes of both countries' people," said the congratulatory message from China, issued by the official Xinhua news agency. "It also benefits protecting regional peace and stability."
In a message to China, Kim Jong-il and other North Korean leaders said relations between the two countries would "constantly consolidate and develop," Xinhua reported.
The mutual wooing between the world's third biggest economy and the impoverished and reclusive North has underscored how Beijing's approach to Pyongyang diverges from the harder line long favored by Washington, Tokyo and other regional capitals.
Other governments have pushed China to use its crucial energy and food supplies to the North to put more pressure on Pyongyang to curb nuclear weapons development.
Analysts have said China, the closest North Korea has to an ally, would not send Wen unless it had some assurance from Pyongyang that could ease tensions following its second ever nuclear test in May and its claims to have made progress in enriching uranium.
China wants North Korea to return to international talks aimed at ending its nuclear weapons plans.
Six-party talks among the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States ground to a halt about a year ago, with Pyongyang saying it would boycott the sessions aimed at curtailing its nuclear weapons capability in return for aid.
But Beijing does not want international pressure on North Korea to risk political turmoil there that could release a flood of refugees into China.
North Korea's Kim Jong-il made a rare appearance to greet Wen at the start of his trip, showing how serious he is about shoring up ties with China. Kim is widely believed to have suffered a serious illness last year.
Wen also held talks with North Korean Premier Kim Yong-Il -- no relation to his supreme leader -- who told him Pyongyang was open to talks on its nuclear weapons program, which has drawn United Nations Security Council sanctions backed by Beijing.