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North Korea invites Chinese diplomats for 'goodwill meeting'

By Elizabeth Shim
North Korea invites Chinese diplomats for 'goodwill meeting'
A huge statue of former Chinese helmsman Mao Zedong both greets and bids farewell to travelers at the train station in Dandong, China's largest border city with North Korea. North Korea state media said the government hosted Chinese diplomats at its foreign ministry in Pyongyang, a sign relations may be thawing after Pyongyang's provocations drew strong criticism from Beijing. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 8 (UPI) -- North Korea's foreign ministry hosted a "goodwill meeting" in Pyongyang and invited Chinese diplomats to a rare gathering to celebrate the Lunar New Year, state media reported on Wednesday.

Workers' Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun stated the meeting was attended by Ri Gil Song, deputy minister of foreign affairs; Li Jinjun, the Chinese ambassador to North Korea; and Chinese embassy staff in Pyongyang.

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According to state media, officials on both sides agreed to work together to strengthen and develop relations.

The meeting took place in a "friendly atmosphere," the newspaper stated.

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This is the second holiday gathering for the two governments in 2017. Earlier in January, the Chinese embassy had invited dozens of North Korea officials to a reception to mend ties.

Relations between Beijing and Pyongyang deteriorated in 2016, when North Korea test-fired dozens of ballistic missiles and conducted two nuclear tests. China has urged North Korea to pursue denuclearization, but Kim Jong Un has not heeded the advice of his country's most influential economic partner.

North Korea's growing nuclear and missile threats caught the attention of U.S. President Donald Trump, when Kim said in his New Year's speech North Korea is completing preparations to test-launch an intercontinental ballistic missile.

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Trump had tweeted in response that a North Korea provocation "won't happen" but it was not clear whether the president was referring to a North Korea test or a targeting of the United States.

On Tuesday White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer described North Korea as a significant threat to the United States and its allies.

"I think obviously the threat of North Korea is the most prominent issue that faces South Korea in our alliance right now," Spicer said. "I think that the safety of our country, of South Korea, of the region are going to be clearly the greatest focus of this."

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