April 21, 2012 / 12:52 PM / in 6 years

China and North Korea hold highest-level talks since rocket

BEIJING (Reuters) - China and North Korea on Saturday held their highest-level talks since Pyongyang staged a rocket launch that drew international censure, and they exchanged views about the tense Korean peninsula, according to an official Chinese news report.

Wang Jiarui, the head of the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s International Department, met Kim Yong-il, the Korean Workers’ Party director of international affairs, for “strategic” talks between the two ruling parties, the Xinhua news agency reported.

“Both sides thoroughly exchanged views on developing exchanges and cooperation between the Chinese and North Korean parties, on developments on the Korean peninsula, and on other international and regional issues of common concern,” said the report which did not mention the recent failed rocket launch.

China conducts many of its high-level contacts with North Korea through party channels, rather than traditional diplomatic ones. This meeting was the most high-level between them since Pyongyang defied international pressure and pushed ahead with a rocket launch on April 13, which it said aimed to put a weather satellite into orbit.

Critics said the launch was intended to enhance North Korea’s capacity to design a ballistic missile that could deliver a nuclear warhead capable of hitting continental United States. But the rocket quickly fizzled out and crashed into the sea.

China has fended off calls for harsher pressure on North Korea, its neighbour and long-time ally that it sees as a strategic buffer against U.S. power. But Beijing joined other powers in backing a United Nations Security Council statement condemning the North’s rocket launch and warning Pyongyang of consequences if it carries out another launch or nuclear test.

Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani

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