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SEOUL: Chinese President Xi Jinping told North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that Beijing was willing to work with Pyongyang for world peace, North Korean state media said on Saturday.

The message from Xi came days after North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile in one of its most powerful tests yet, declaring it would meet perceived US nuclear threats with nukes of its own.

North Korea has conducted a record-breaking blitz of missile launches in recent weeks and fears have grown that it is building up to a seventh nuclear test, its first since 2017.

In his message to Kim, Xi said Beijing was ready to work with the North for “peace, stability, development and prosperity of the region and the world,” Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

North Korea slams South Korea’s Yoon, warns sanctions will fuel more hostility

Xi said he was willing to collaborate with Pyongyang as “changes in the world, times, and history are taking place in unprecedented ways,” KCNA said, quoting from the message it said was received in response to congratulations from Kim after the Chinese Communist Party Congress last month handed Xi a third term.

Days before North Korea’s ICBM launch, Xi met on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit in Bali with US President Joe Biden, who voiced confidence that Beijing does not want to see a further escalation by Pyongyang.

Washington has said it wants China, Pyongyang’s most important ally and economic benefactor, to use its influence to help rein in North Korea.

The November 18 missile launch appeared to be Pyongyang’s newest ICBM with the potential range to hit the US mainland.

The UN Security Council convened an open meeting over the launch, with the United States, Britain, France and India among 14 nations to “strongly condemn” Pyongyang’s actions.

But a Western diplomat told AFP that China and Russia had chosen not to put their names to Monday’s statement.

Earlier this month, the United States accused Beijing and Moscow of protecting Pyongyang from further punishment.

In May, China and Russia vetoed a US-led effort to tighten sanctions on North Korea in response to earlier launches.

Pyongyang is already under multiple sets of international sanctions over its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, and China accounts for more than 90 percent of the impoverished country’s bilateral trade.

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