BEIJING — Chinese President Hu Jintao on Saturday pledged to strengthen ties with the new leadership in North Korea, during a visit to Beijing by a senior delegation from Pyongyang, state media reported.
Hu's comments come after ailing North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il this week offered senior posts in the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) to his son Jong-Un and promoted him to the rank of general -- signs that he is the heir apparent.
China is North Korea's sole major ally and provides an economic lifeline to impoverished Pyongyang.
"We believe that the WPK, the DPRK government and people will see new achievements in their national construction under the new WPK leadership," Hu said, according to China's official Xinhua news agency.
Hu, who has welcomed Kim to China twice this year, said the Communist party would work with the WPK's new leaders to "promote and expand cooperation" and "strengthen communication" on regional and international issues, Xinhua said.
The leader of the North Korean delegation, party politburo member Choe Thae Bok, said Kim's decision to dispatch a high-level group of envoys so soon after the WPK conference "shows the importance the DPRK attaches to the consensus reached by leaders of the two countries," the report added.
Earlier this week, Hu had sent his "warm congratulations" on the success of the party conference -- the first in decades.
Beijing is the host of the stalled six-party talks on ending Pyongyang's nuclear drive, which bring together the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States. The North stormed out in April last year.
Kim, 68, still appears to be in control despite suffering a stroke two years ago. The heir apparent is a mystery to the outside world. Even Jong-Un's age is unclear, although he is thought to be about 27.
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