Kim Jong Un congratulates China’s Xi on Olympics, calls to ‘frustrate’ the U.S.

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SEOUL, Feb. 22 (UPI) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un congratulated Chinese President Xi Jinping on the closing of the Beijing Winter Olympics and said the two countries would continue to work together in “frustrating” the United States, according to state-run media on Tuesday.

Kim noted that China and North Korea share the cause of “advancing and defending socialism” and called for stronger cooperation on “frustrating the undisguised hostile policy and military threat of the U.S. and its satellite forces,” Korean Central News Agency reported.

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The North Korean leader’s comments were delivered in a verbal message, KCNA said.

China is North Korea’s only major ally and is its main economic partner. The countries restarted trade over a railroad crossing last month for the first time in two years after Pyongyang sealed its borders to protect against COVID-19.

Kim also extended congratulations on the “splendid proceeding” of the Beijing Winter Games, which he called “a novel and special grand sports festival.”

“The message appreciated that the Chinese party and people have left an indelible trace in the history of the Olympics with their indefatigable efforts … in the face of unprecedentedly severe health crisis and the hostile forces’ maneuvers,” KCNA said.

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The Winter Games, which ended on Sunday with a closing ceremony at Beijing’s Bird’s Nest stadium, were highlighted by a successful “closed-loop” system that kept COVID-19 at bay. However, the event was also colored by controversy around the doping saga of Russian figure skater Karina Valieva and ongoing concerns about China’s human rights record. The United States and a handful of allies did not send official delegations in a diplomatic boycott.

North Korea was a no-show at the Games, blaming “hostile forces” and the ongoing pandemic for its absence. In a January letter explaining the decision, the country’s sports ministry jabbed the United States for “getting evermore undisguised in their moves against China aimed at preventing the successful opening of the Olympics,” an apparent reference to the boycott.

The Feb. 4-20 Olympics marked a quiet period for Pyongyang after a month filled with seven missile launches, including the test of an intermediate-range ballistic missile capable of reaching the U.S. territory of Guam on Jan. 30.

The South Korean military said Monday that it was on alert for a resumption of activities.

“Our military is closely monitoring the North Korean military’s wintertime drills and preparations for an event,” a spokesman for Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said at a press briefing, according to news agency Yonhap.

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“There has been no noteworthy change thus far,” he added.

In January, Kim sparked international concern when he suggested that Pyongyang may lift its self-imposed moratorium on long-range ballistic missile and nuclear weapons tests.

North Korea restarted its Yongbyon nuclear reactor in July of last year after a two-year hiatus, according to the U.N.’s International Atomic Emergency Agency.

A pair of recent reports from U.S.-based monitoring sites found that the 5MW reactor, which can be used to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons, is still in operation.