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Vice Minister of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee Guo Yezhou attends a news conference during the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in Beijing, China October 21, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Lee(reuters_tickers)
BEIJING (Reuters) - China's ruling Communist Party continues to hold talks and maintain contacts with its North Korean counterpart, a senior official said on Saturday, describing the two countries friendship as important for regional stability.
While the United States and its allies, and many people in China, believe Beijing should do more to rein in Pyongyang, the acceleration of North Korea's nuclear and missile capabilities has coincided with a near-total breakdown of high-level diplomacy between the two.
China, Pyongyang's sole major ally, has said it will strictly enforce U.N. Security Council sanctions banning imports of coal, textiles and seafood, while cutting off oil shipments to the North. China accounts for more than 90 percent of world trade with the isolated country.
Guo Yezhou, a deputy head of the Chinese Communist Party's international department, told reporters on the sidelines of a party congress that its exchanges, communication and dialogue with the North's ruling Workers' Party of Korea were continuing.
"China and North Korea are neighbours and the two have a traditional friendly cooperative relationship," Guo said.
Maintaining, developing and consolidating those ties not only accord with both sides' interests, they also have "important meaning" for regional peace and stability, he added.
Exchanges between the two parties play an important role in developing overall China-North Korea relations, Guo said.
"Our party and the Workers' Party of Korea have traditional friendly exchanges. When and at what level these exchanges happen depend on both sides need and both sides' convenience," he added, without elaborating.
Guo did not directly answer a question on when the department's head, Song Tao, last met with any North Koreans.
The department is in charge of the party's relations with foreign political parties, and has traditionally served as a conduit for Chinese diplomacy with North Korea.
The Workers' Party of Korea on Wednesday congratulated China on its 19th Communist Party Congress despite the increasingly frayed relationships between the allies as China tightens sanctions over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme.
Though China has been angered by North Korea's repeated nuclear and missile tests and demanded they stop, Beijing also sees the United States and South Korea sharing responsibility for rising tensions with their military drills.
North Korea is likely to be at high on the agenda when U.S. President Donald Trump visits China next month for talks with President Xi Jinping.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Kim Coghill)