Senior officials of China and North Korea have vowed to open a “new chapter” in bilateral relations.

Chinese top official Zhao Leji, who arrived in Pyongyang on April 11 for a three-day visit to the neighboring country, met with North Korean officials and announced the beginning of the “Friendship Year.”

His trip to Pyongyang is the highest-level Chinese visit to North Korea in nearly five years since North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un last met with Xi Jinping in 2019.

The Chinese official, who is leading a high-ranking government delegation, said the designation of “friendship year” marking 75 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries, highlights the importance both nations place on their traditional partnership.


Earlier, China’s foreign ministry said Zhao’s visit reflected the “deep friendship” between the two countries and the “great importance China attaches to its relations” with North Korea. Chinese officials and experts also blame the U.S. and its expanding military presence in the region, for heightened tensions between North Korea and the U.S. and its allies.

The Chinese delegation’s visit to North Korea takes place amid rising tensions with the U.S.

The U.S.-led alliances are perceived by Beijing, Pyongyang, and Moscow as threats to peace and stability.

In September, North Korea’s Kim also met with his Russian counterpart during a visit to the neighboring country. Now, Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to pay a reciprocal visit to Pyongyang this year as the two countries broaden relations.

Beijing, Moscow and Pyongyang enjoy close neighborly exchanges and have common security concerns, according to American analyst, Yun Sun, who says China, Russia and North Korea have even forged a trilateral military pact.

The director of the Washington-based China program at the Stimson Center said, “If North Korea receives weapon technology from Russia, North Korea will be equipped with better technology and a better capability” to defend itself and its allies against foreign aggression.

She pointed out that Beijing approves of any Moscow-Pyongyang expansion of ties as Xi is party to any moves by Kim or Putin that would result in a heightening of tension in the region.

Chinese international relations professor Shi Yinhong from the Renmin University in Beijing said China was “aware of the increasingly close relationship between North Korea and Russia” as Beijing’s relationship with Moscow was “even closer.” However, he also noted that there are “certain complexities due to the situation in Ukraine.”

On April 9, visiting Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi reinforced calls for expanding ties, working more closely together against “hegemonism.”

In related news in March, the Financial Times reported North Korean vessels were making regular journeys to Russia’s far east to collect oil products, ignoring UN sanctions designed to deter Pyongyang’s military development programs.

In March, the Russians vetoed the extension of a UN panel that monitors compliance with the UN sanctions. The Chinese have also abstained from the vote on the anti-Pyongyang sanctions. (