China and North Korea will deepen cooperation and exchanges in 2009 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties, Chinese state media said on Thursday.
The announcement comes less than a month after the latest round of six nation disarmament talks hosted by Beijing ended in a stalemate over the North's refusal to put into writing any commitments on inspecting its past nuclear activities. China, North Korea's biggest aid source and trading partner, has often been pressed to use its influence to push forward the talks but insists it has little influence over the isolated Stalinist regime.
Few details are known about their interactions although the governments appear to maintain friendly relations. In October, the North's leader Kim Jong Il sent a message of greeting to the Beijing leadership on China's national day.
On Thursday, leaders of the two countries exchanged congratulatory messages, with Chinese President Hu Jintao praising their "deep and traditional friendship," the Xinhua News Agency said.
"The development of bilateral relations not only conforms to the fundamental interests and common will of the two peoples, but also contributes to the peace and stability of the region," Xinhua cited Hu as saying.
During the "year of friendship," Hu said the two sides would "further enhance friendship, promote exchanges and deepen cooperation through a variety of activities." No details were given in the Xinhua report.
It said Kim, the North's leader, believed that "friendly relations will be further strengthened and developed in the new year."
The failure of last month's nuclear disarmament talks all but extinguished hopes of a successful legacy by the Bush administration on the issue.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that five of the six parties the US, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia "are completely agreed" on how North Korea's past nuclear activities should be verified. But Pyongyang balked at putting its commitments on inspections in writing.