April 12, 2018 10:30
China and Russia are both warming up to North Korea ahead of imminent meetings between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the presidents of South Korea and the U.S.
China will send an art troupe to North Korea to celebrate the 106th birthday of regime founder Kim Il-sung in a decision symbolic of a thaw between the two uneasy allies.
And North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho, who is on a visit to Russia, extracted a promise from his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov to give humanitarian aid to the North and visit Pyongyang. The North is fast escaping its diplomatic isolation by restoring traditional ties with both countries.
The Chinese art troupe will be accompanied by Song Tao, the head of the Chinese Communist Party's International Liaison Department to take part in the biennial April Spring Friendship Art Festival, the North's official Korean Central News Agency reported Wednesday.
The festival is held every two years during the week of Kim Il-sung's birthday (April 15), and artists from around the world give song and dance performances.
China did not participate in 2016, when relations were at their chilliest after Pyongyang conducted a nuclear test and test-launched a long-range missile in defiance of Beijing.
Last November, Kim refused to meet Song who went to Pyongyang as Chinese President Xi Jinping's special envoy. But Song escorted Kim during his surprise visit to China last month.
Ri, who has been on an overseas trip since April 3, met delegations from Cuba, Indonesia, Iran, Togo and Venezuela on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement's ministerial conference in Azerbaijan on April 5-6. He visited Turkmenistan last Saturday and Sunday, and has been in Russia since Monday.
According to TASS on Tuesday, Lavrov accepted an invitation from Ri to visit the North.
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