North Korea's Kim meets senior Chinese official

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has met a leading Chinese official in Pyongyang, state media said Friday, his first reception of a senior foreign guest since taking power last December.

Kim on Thursday met a Chinese communist party delegation led by Wang Jiarui, head of the party's international department, China's Xinhua news agency and the North's official news agency reported.

The young leader, who took power after the death of his father Kim Jong-Il, asked Wang to give his regards to Chinese President Hu Jintao.

China is the North's sole major ally and its main trade partner and economic benefactor.

Kim, quoted by Xinhua, said it was the North's "unswerving will" to continue a friendship nurtured under his father's rule and to deepen their alliance.

Wang said Beijing was ready to work jointly to maintain high-level contacts, strengthen party-to-party exchanges and boost practical cooperation.

China is actively exploring investment opportunities in North Korea.

Pyongyang's dependence on Beijing has grown as international sanctions over its missile and nuclear programmes have restricted access to international credit and trade.

Towards the end of his life Kim Jong-Il travelled to China four times in less than two years, making his last visit in August 2011.

Observers expect the younger Kim, who last month reshuffled the powerful military to tighten his grip on his state, to make his first foreign visit as leader to China.

South Koreas's unification ministry said the meeting was Kim's first with a senior foreign official.

Xinhua quoted Kim as saying his domestic aim was "developing the economy and improving the people's livelihoods to let the Korean people lead a happy and civilised life".

There was no mention of possible aid following recent deadly storms and floods in the North, which killed almost 120 people and damaged thousands of hectares of crops.

The flooding represents a challenge for Kim, leading a nation that has grappled with severe food shortages since a famine in the 1990s killed hundreds of thousands.

UN agencies estimated last autumn that three million people would need food aid this year even before the latest deluge.

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