Kim Jong Un congratulated Syria's Assad before U.S. strike

By Elizabeth Shim  |  April 7, 2017 at 9:46 AM
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April 7 (UPI) -- North Korea's Kim Jong Un sent a letter congratulating Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on the 70th anniversary of the country's ruling Ba'ath party, according to Pyongyang's news agency KCNA.

The message was sent on Thursday, before U.S. President Donald Trump ordered airstrikes against Syria.

Kim congratulated Assad's party for achieving "great successes in the creation of an independent and prosperous country and ensuring regional peace and security."

The North Korean leader also described the Ba'ath party as "resolutely resisting foreign and domestic enemies in the ongoing fight for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria," reconfirming the anti-U.S. stance common to both regimes.

Pyongyang has maintained friendly ties with the dictatorship in Damascus, and the two countries have reportedly cultivated military ties for many years.

North Korea may have also helped Syria build a nuclear facility destroyed by an Israeli air raid in 2007, and Syria once dedicated a park to former North Korean leader Kim Il Sung.

The U.S. air strike, which included the firing of 50 Tomahawk cruise missiles into a west Syrian airfield, has been condemned by Russia and China.

China, North Korea's closest economic partner, stated on Friday that it opposes the use of unilateral force in international relations, a reference to Trump's order, which he made before he sat down with Chinese President Xi Jinping for their first state dinner at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla.

Beijing foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Friday that China stresses "dialogue as a means to resolve disputes peacefully," and that Beijing is "concerned about the situation in Syria."

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gave a different response, saying the Japanese government supports the "U.S. decision" while praising Trump for taking actions to "maintain peace and stability."

Trump ordered the airstrike ahead of his summit with Xi on Friday, when North Korea's provocations and Chinese pressure on Pyongyang are likely to be raised as topics of discussion.

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