China pledged to strengthen bonds with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Monday, calling their relationship a boon to regional peace and stability.
Premier Wen Jiabao pays tribute in front of a statue of Mao Anying, son of Chairman Mao Zedong, during a visit to a cemetery for martyrs of the Chinese People's Volunteers yesterday. [Xinhua]
The commitment to cement ties between the two neighbors came in messages between top leaders to mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, which is today.
The leaders exchanged the messages as Premier Wen Jiabao is in Pyongyang for a three-day visit intended to bolster bilateral relations.
"History demonstrates that developing China-DPRK relations is in keeping with the fundamental interests and shared wishes of people in both countries," said the congratulatory message from President Hu Jintao, top legislator Wu Bangguo and Premier Wen.
"It also benefits protecting regional peace and stability."
China is ready to join hands with the DPRK to further promote the good neighborly, friendly and cooperative relations, it said.
In a message to China, DPRK top leader Kim Jong-il and other leaders described the establishment of DPRK-China relations as an epoch-making event.
The relations were "precious fortunes inherited from the old generation of revolutionaries" and would "constantly consolidate and develop", it said.
Yesterday, Wen visited a martyrs' cemetery for Chinese soldiers killed in the Korean War (1950-53).
The cemetery, located some 100 km east of Pyongyang, is the largest in the DPRK among dozens for the Chinese People's Volunteer Army soldiers who died in the war more than 50 years ago.
Accompanied by senior DPRK officials, Wen laid a wreath before the bronze statue of a Chinese soldier and visited the tombs of the martyrs. He said the people of the motherland have never forgotten the martyrs and will always cherish their memory.
Construction of the 90,000-sq-m cemetery was completed in 1957, where 134 martyrs of the Chinese People's Volunteers are buried, including Mao Anying, son of Mao Zedong.
Premier Zhou Enlai visited the cemetery in 1958.
Some 2.4 million Chinese soldiers were sent to the DPRK in the early 1950s to join the Korean People's Army in the war.
Wen held talks with Kim Jong-il last night, Xinhua reported. No details were available by press time.
Earlier Monday, Wen met DPRK top legislator Kim Yong-nam.
China and the DPRK both face the important tasks of developing their economies and improving the livelihoods of their people, and "we must continue strengthening friendly cooperation", Wen told Kim Yong-nam, according to Xinhua.
Wen said "good-neighborliness" and the long-standing friendship between the two countries serve the fundamental interests of the two peoples.
Thanks to the efforts of both sides, the traditional friendship between the two countries has stood the test of time, is being further consolidated and developed, and is deeply rooted in the hearts of the two peoples, Wen said.
Kim Yong-nam described Wen's visit as a strong embodiment of the importance that the Communist Party of China and the Chinese government have placed on bilateral ties.
The DPRK is willing to join hands with China to maintain high-level contact, strengthen people-to-people and parliamentary exchanges and deepen mutually beneficial cooperation in a bid to open up a better future for bilateral ties, he said.
Kim Jong-il greeted Wen personally at the city's airport on Sunday, embracing him on a red carpet and standing beside him as a military band played their country's respective national anthems.
Tens of thousands of Pyongyang residents lining the streets danced, waved bunches of flowers and shouted greetings in unison.
The lavish welcome offered a strong indication that the DPRK is planning to re-engage its negotiating partners after boycotting talks while conducting nuclear and missile tests, experts said.
Kim Jong-il has reportedly expressed a willingness to engage in "bilateral and multilateral talks", although it's unclear if that indicates a willingness to rejoin stalled six-nation disarmament talks.
"I think a Pyongyang declaration or a joint statement, which would contain progress in the six-party process and the denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, would be announced," said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at Seoul's University.
Xinhua, AP and Reuters