North Korean leader meets senior Chinese official

Mobile phone footage shows thousands of toads sitting and hopping on the street in China

Kim met Song Tao, head of the worldwide liaison department of at the Central Committee of the Communist Party, on Saturday, according to the Korean Central News Agency.

The warm welcome is in stark contrast to when Song was not permitted to meet Kim during a visit as the Chinese president's special envoy last November.

Song's latest trip to Pyongyang is in sharp contrast to his visit in November past year.

In his meeting with Song, Kim said he hoped the occasion would herald a "new era" of cultural and people-to-people exchanges between the two countries.

He also expressed his greetings to Chinese President Xi Jinping after Song conveyed Xi's greetings to Kim, the North's official Korea Central News Agency said.

North Korea's relationship with its sole ally during the 1950-1953 Korean war had strained when China pushed United Nations to punish Pyongyang for its nuclear weapons programme.

Officials from the two Koreas also met on Saturday at the North's side of the Demilitarised Zone to discuss setting up a hotline between their leaders, Seoul's presidential office said yesterday.

In response, Mr Song vowed to make "a fresh contribution to promoting the prolonged and stable development" of China-North Korea relations.

"First Lady Ri Sol Ju enjoyed a ballet choreodrama "Giselle" given by the National Ballet of China", KCNA reported, adding she held "friendly talk" with the guests ahead of the performance.

State-run television aired footage of Kim's meeting with Song Tao, the chief of China's Communist Party's International Department, in Pyongyang on Saturday.

The art troupe, led by Song, arrived in Pyongyang on Friday in a sign of improving relations between the two countries since Kim's recent visit to China.

China is North Korea's strongest economic and military ally, but their relationship cooled after Beijing joined sanctions previous year.

Sunday marked the 106th birthday of North Korea's late founder Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong-un's grandfather, but the regime kept its celebrations low-key this year, refraining from launching a ballistic missile or holding a military parade as in the past.

Kim will meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in on April 27 at the border between the two countries, and US President Donald Trump in May or early June at a yet-to-be determined venue.

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