China's Xi congratulates North Korea's Kim on new title

·2-min read

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping has congratulated North Korea leader Kim Jong Un on being elected as general secretary of the ruling Workers' Party, Chinese state media said on Monday.

Kim was elected on Sunday, taking over the title from his late father. China is North Korea's largest trade partner and closest ally.

North Korea, under the leadership of Kim, can achieve economic and social development goals and "attain greater success in socialist development", Xi said, according to China's Xinhua state news agency.

North Korean state media said Xi expressed his will to safeguard regional peace and stability, development and prosperity and provide the two countries and the two peoples with greater happiness by strengthening relations.

"The message stressed that it is a steadfast policy of the Chinese Party and government to successfully protect, consolidate and develop the China-DPRK relations," North Korea's state news agency KCNA reported on Tuesday, using the initials for the country's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Kim told a party congress last week that his five-year economic plan had failed to meet its goals. He blamed international sanctions as well as unanticipated crises including the coronavirus pandemic and natural disasters, while criticising officials for mistakes that needed to be fixed.

Since Kim came to power in 2011, standards of living improved for many North Koreans as markets proliferated and consumer goods became more widely available. But now the country is facing the most challenging situation since a famine in the 1990s, and projects such as tourist resorts, economic zones, and a large hospital appear stalled.

Talks aimed at persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons and improve relations with the United States and South Korea have also stalled, with Pyongyang accusing Seoul and Washington of maintaining hostile policies.

(Reporting by Josh Smith; editing by Jonathan Oatis)