North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has sent a congratulatory message to Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has been re-elected as the chief of the Communist Party, signalling Pyongyang's willingness to bolster ties with one of its crucial allies. Kim wished Xi "great success" in ushering in a new era of governance in China.
In recent years, North Korea's belligerent actions in pressing ahead with its nuclear and missile programmes while defying global calls for restraint have frustrated China, a key geopolitical ally and trading partner of Pyongyang. With the pressure growing from the international community, the rare congratulatory message is bound to be seen as a reconciliatory step towards Beijing.
"It expressed the conviction that the relations between the two parties and the two countries would develop in the interests of the peoples of the two countries," read the statement carried by Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). Kim offered his "sincerest congratulations" to Xi on his recent elevation — which saw the Chinese president being placed on the same pedestal as the country's most powerful leader Mao Zedong.
This also marks the first time Xi was mentioned in North Korean state media reports since February.
"The Chinese people have entered the road of building socialism with the Chinese characteristics in the new era," under Xi's guidance, added the KCNA report. While formal messages through diplomatic channels and ceremonial correspondence are routine between China and North Korea, personal messages are rare.
Kim's message to Xi comes at a time when Western powers are pressuring China to rein in North Korea for its defiant weapons programmes. However, analysts are unsure if Kim's latest note should be taken as an indication of Pyongyang's eagerness to warm up to China.
On Wednesday, 25 October, Xi was elected again as the general secretary of the Communist Party of China's Central committee allowing him another five-year term. The party has also unveiled members of the newly set up Politburo Standing Committee.