• Kyodo

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North Korea and Syria have agreed to strengthen their cooperation in defending their rights to national sovereignty, according to an official media report from Pyongyang on Tuesday, after the United States ratcheted up pressure on those two countries.

“The two friendly countries are celebrating this anniversary and, at the same time, conducting a war against the big powers’ wild ambition to subject all countries to their expansionist … policy,” Syrian President Bashar Assad said in a message sent to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to the Korean Central News Agency.

The message, for the 105th anniversary of the birth of Kim’s late grandfather and North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung, noted that the two countries are “as ever struggling for their rights to self-determination and national sovereignty, and the security and prosperity of their countries,” KCNA said.

With last week’s U.S. missile strike on an airfield of Assad’s regime having drawn international attention, North Korea received the message in return for similar greetings it sent recently to the Syrian president on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Ba’ath party.

In Kim’s message, reported by North Korea’s state-run media on Thursday, he said cooperative ties between the two countries “forged through the common struggle for independence against imperialism would steadily grow strong in the future.”

The U.S. airstrike on Syria, ordered by U.S. President Donald Trump while he was hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping in Florida for their first face-to-face meeting, followed Assad regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians.

The U.S. military action was also widely seen as a strong signal to North Korea, which has shown no signs of curtailing its nuclear ambitions.

The United States dispatched a Navy carrier strike group toward waters off the Korean Peninsula over the weekend, while there has been speculation that Kim’s regime may again test-fire ballistic missiles or conduct a nuclear test around the late founder’s anniversary or the 85th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army on April 25.

North Korea has already denounced both the U.S. attack on the Syrian air base and the dispatch of the strike group.

“The prevailing grave situation proves once again that (North Korea) was entirely just when it increased in every way its military capabilities for self-defense and pre-emptive attack with a nuclear force as a pivot,” the country’s Foreign Ministry said Monday in a statement.

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