• REUTERS

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In a congratulatory message to Kim Jong Un for the founding anniversary of North Korea’s ruling party, Chinese President Xi Jinping said he intends to deepen relations with Pyongyang, North Korean state media reported Saturday.

“We have an intent to successfully defend, consolidate and develop the China-Korea relations together with Korean comrades and propel the long-lasting and stable development of the socialist cause of the two countries,” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) quoted Xi as saying.

Saturday marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, and events are expected to include a large military parade that may feature some of North Korea’s long-range ballistic missiles for the first time since 2018.

It wasn’t immediately clear as of Saturday morning whether any events were proceeding.

A programming schedule announced by North Korean television didn’t include plans to broadcast a military parade and mass rally, which South Korean government officials and private analysts have said were being prepared at Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung Square.

While North Korean TV had provided live coverage of a 2017 military parade honoring the birth of Kim’s late grandfather and state founder Kim Il Sung, the next two military parades in 2018 were recorded and broadcast later.

Xi said he was “greatly pleased” with the achievements that North Korea had made in recent years by engaging with foreign countries in the face of hardships and challenges, KCNA reported.

After years of cool relations during which China joined the United States and other nations in imposing sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, Xi and Kim met five times in 2018 and 2019. The North Korean diplomatic offensive included Kim meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump.

While North Korea says it has had no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, strict border closures and other measures it imposed to prevent an outbreak have further strained its economy, which is heavily reliant on trade with China.

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