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Kim Jong Un thanks China for support against 'heinous isolation'

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sent a letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping thanking him for Beijing's support against "heinous isolation," state media reported Wednesday. File Photo by KCNA/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/460f0ad72f5f966a920536bbe6d6a00b/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sent a letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping thanking him for Beijing's support against "heinous isolation," state media reported Wednesday. File Photo by KCNA/UPI | License Photo

SEOUL, Sept. 21 (UPI) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un thanked Chinese President Xi Jinping for Beijing's "constant support and encouragement" against the "heinous isolation" that the heavily sanctioned country faces, state media reported on Wednesday.

China's assistance is "powerfully inspiring our struggle for firmly defending the state's security and the people's well-being ... despite the hostile forces' heinous isolation and blockade moves," Kim wrote in a letter to Xi, according to state-run Korean Central News Agency.

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"I am sure that the traditional and strategic relations between the two parties and the two countries, established and consolidated in the struggle for socialism, would steadily develop on a new high stage," Kim added.

The letter, which was sent on Monday, came in response to Xi's message of congratulations on North Korea's founding anniversary earlier this month.

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It was the latest public exchange between Beijing and Pyongyang as the neighbors appear to be drawing closer in the wake of growing geopolitical divisions with the West.

Last month, North Korea sent a "letter of solidarity" to China over the visit to Taiwan by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, which drew a furious response from Beijing. In July, Kim praised the relationship between China and North Korea in public remarks, saying it was a friendship "sealed in blood."

China, meanwhile, joined Russia in vetoing a U.S.-led push for new sanctions against North Korea in May at the United Nations Security Council.

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Pyongyang has rejected recent efforts at diplomatic engagement by Washington and Seoul, including a mocking response to South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol's "audacious" offer of economic support in exchange for North Korean steps toward dismantling its nuclear arsenal.

The North's rubber-stamp parliament recently passed a law that officially declared the secretive regime a nuclear weapons state and gave it the right to automatically launch nuclear strikes to protect itself.

In a related policy speech, Kim said that the country would "never give up" its nuclear weapons.

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"There will never be such a thing as our abandonment of the nuclear weapons or denuclearization first, nor will there be any negotiations to this end or bargaining chip in these processes," he said.

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Pyongyang has launched a flurry of missiles throughout the year and officials in Seoul and Washington have said that it is poised to conduct a nuclear test -- its seventh overall and first since 2017.

China remains the isolated regime's closest ally and primary trading partner, although the COVID-19 pandemic has severely limited economic exchanges between the neighbors.

Trade rose in August for the third straight month, according to customs data from China, but remains less than half of what it was before the pandemic. Pyongyang also reportedly turned to Beijing to help it contain a major COVID-19 outbreak earlier this year after consistently rejecting international offers of vaccines.

South Korea's Yoon addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday but did not mention North Korea in his speech. However, he met with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the sidelines of the event and asked that the international community "respond sternly with one voice" if Pyongyang conducts a nuclear provocation, according to a presidential spokeswoman.

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