China provides N. Korea with relief goods, first shipment since missile tests


China has sent relief supplies to flood victims in North Korea, the North’s state media said Wednesday, amid reports that the two communist neighbors were trying to restore ties that were frayed following Pyongyang’s missile tests in July.

“The government of China provided the DPRK with aid materials including food and diesel fuel in connection with flood damage,” the North’s Korean Central News Agency said in a brief dispatch.

The one-sentence article did not provide details such as the size of relief goods, but they would be the first Chinese aid shipment to the impoverished North since the latter defiantly test-launched seven missiles on July 5, drawing strong international condemnation.

China voted for a U.N. resolution condemning the missile launches and imposing weapons-related sanctions on the North, undermining its traditionally strong ties with North Korea.

After the North’s missile launches, China sent top government officials such as Vice Premier Hui Liangyu and Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei to Pyongyang to discuss the issue, but they failed to meet leader Kim Jong-il. In the past, Kim has usually received courtesy calls by visiting Chinese delegates.

The two countries have recently shown signs of resolving their soured ties, however, as the North remains locked in a global standoff over its nuclear and missile programs.

On Sept. 11, North Korea’s No. 2 leader Kim Yong-nam said, “It’s a firm policy of the DPRK to make efforts to strengthen the traditional friendship with China,” while meeting China’s new ambassador Liu Xiaoming, according to China’s Xinhua news agency.

Three days later, Qin Gang, a spokesman at China’s Foreign Ministry, said Beijing will strengthen ties with Pyongyang, saying its goal of preserving friendly ties “has been consistent and remains unchanged.”

China is believed to have been the largest donor of aid to North Korea, which has resorted to outside handouts since 1995 when its state-controlled economy collapsed due to economic mismanagement and natural disasters.

North Korea was hit hard by torrential rains in mid-July. Its official media said hundreds of people were killed or went missing, while arable land capable of producing 100,000 tons of grains was wiped out.

China also hosted several rounds of six-nation talks on the North’s nuclear weapons program, each of which ended without much progress. The North has boycotted the disarmament talks since November, citing U.S.-imposed sanctions on it for alleged counterfeiting, money-laundering and other financial crimes.

A series of latest media reports speculated that North Korean leader Kim may visit China soon to promote the bilateral ties and discuss the nuclear and missile dispute.


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