Seoul. A powerful North Korean official and uncle of young ruler Kim Jong-Un has returned home, state media said, after meetings with Chinese leaders focused on beefing up economic ties.
A group of officials led by Jang Song-Thaek arrived from Beijing Saturday, the official KCNA news agency said, a day after Jang met China’s President Hu Jintao, seen as a precursor to a visit by Jong-Un.
The six-day trip by Jang, head of the Central Committee of the North’s ruling communist party, was the highest-level diplomatic exchange since Jong-Un took over from his late father and long-time ruler Kim Jong-Il in December.
China is the sole major ally and economic lifeline for the impoverished but nuclear-armed North, providing food and fuel aid to the country, which is beset by chronic shortages, a moribund economy and international sanctions.
China’s Hu, during the talks with Jang, vowed to boost ties between the neighbours, KCNA said earlier on Saturday.
Jang also held talks with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who addressed the importance of strengthening economic relations, the agency said.
The two nations signed agreements aimed at pushing forward the development of special North Korean economic zones near the Chinese border, China’s commerce ministry said earlier.
The late Kim Jong-Il travelled to China four times in less than two years at the end of his life — underscoring the importance of the relationship between the two countries.
Jang — the husband of Kim Jong-Il’s sister Kim Kyong-Hui — is seen as a key figure in the North’s power elite who supports the young and inexperienced Jong-Un, believed to be in his late 20s.