China's senior most diplomat has showered praise on North Korea's young leader Kim Jong-Un, despite tensions created by Pyongyang's failed rocket launch last week, which the international community had condemned.
Dai Bingguo, Chinese State Councilor, expressed confidence in the North Korean leadership and promised to strengthen ties with the reclusive Asian nation in a meeting with Kim Yong-il, the Korean Workers' Party director of international affairs, Reuters reported citing a statement by the Chinese Foreign Ministry late Sunday.
In a statement released to the public, Dai didn't mention North's ambitious attempt to launch the Unha-3 rocket that broke apart shortly after takeoff on April 13.
Though Pyongyang claimed that the rocket was meant to put a weather satellite into orbit, other governments alleged that the launch was aimed to boost the North's ability to make a ballistic missile capable of striking the US.
The traditional friendship between China and North Korea is a precious treasure for our two parties, two countries and our peoples, Dai told Kim Yong-il, who has been visiting Beijing. China is willing to work with North Korea to take friendly cooperation to new heights.
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Dai also expressed confidence that under the leadership of Kim Jong-un, the First Secretary of the Workers Party of Korea, the Korean party, government and people will constantly score new successes in building a strong and prosperous country, a statement published in the Chinese foreign ministry website said.
China, considered as North's biggest ally, condemned the launch along with other world powers in a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) statement, but has been ignoring calls for harsher sanctions on the North Korean regime.
The Obama administration, meanwhile, said that a Chinese firm sold components for a missile transporter to Pyongyang, which was showcased in a recent military parade to mark the birth centenary of the nation's founder Kim Il-Sung. Though the sale may be within the limits of UN sanctions on North Korea, Washington suspects that Beijing lacks commitment, in the light of tensions over North's missile launch.
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told US lawmakers on Thursday that China had assisted in North Korea's missile program, but he said he did not know the exact extent of that.
However, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin denied the US claims, saying that China is always against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the carrier equipment of such weapons.
China actively abides by relevant Security Council resolutions and practices strict control of export control of non-proliferation materials, Weimin said last week.
In a development that appears to be countering Chinese efforts to deepen ties with North Korea, Beijing has suspended the deportations of North Korean defectors following a request from the South Korean government, the Wall Street Journal reported citing Japanese newspapers.
China's move to ease the stance on illegal immigrants is seen as a penalty against Pyongyang for going ahead with the missile launch against Beijing's wish. However, Chinese authorities have not confirmed or denied the reports on suspending deportations.