BEIJING (AP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping extended his congratulations Tuesday to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on his new title of chairman of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, underscoring traditional ties between the communist neighbors despite recent strains.
Writing in his personal capacity and as head of China's ruling Communist Party, Xi expressed hope that Kim's leadership would bring "new accomplishments in the cause of building socialism," China's official Xinhua News Agency reported.
Ties between China and North Korea were "personally forged and carefully fostered by the two countries' leaderships of the older generation and is a treasure for both sides," Xi wrote, according to Xinhua.
China stands ready to work for further improvements in bilateral relations and to make "positive contributions to safeguarding peace, stability and development in the region," Xi wrote.
China fought for North Korea in the 1950-53 Korean War and ties were close for decades afterward. However, North Korea has rejected China's calls for economic reforms and Kim has yet to visit China, despite its status as the North's key source of financial and diplomatic support.
China has also criticized North Korea's nuclear and missile tests and endorsed United Nations Security Council sanctions, recently announcing a further tightening of trade restrictions on Kim's impoverished communist country.