North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have exchanged congratulatory messages on key anniversaries, boasting close ties as they face rising pressure from the United States.
The North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Tuesday that Kim received two messages from Assad on the occasion of the 105th anniversary of North Korea founder Kim Il-sung’s birthday and the fifth anniversary of the incumbent leader’s inauguration.
“The two friendly countries are celebrating this anniversary and, at the same time, conducting a war against big powers’ wild ambitions to subject all countries to their expansionist and dominationist policy and deprive them of their rights to self-determination,” the agency quoted Assad as saying.
“The two peoples of Syria and the DPRK are as ever struggling for their rights to self-determination and national sovereignty and the security and prosperity of their countries.”
The words came as the U.S. increased military pressure on Syria and North Korea, bombing a Syrian military airfield in retaliation to an alleged poison gas attack. The attack raised the alarm with North Korea that it, too, could face use of force by the U.S. in the case of a worsening conflict.
The DPRK is the acronym for the North’s official name ― the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The KCNA also reported that the message expressed “belief that the relations of friendship and cooperation between the two countries would grow stronger in conformity with the interests of the two peoples.”
In the other congratulatory message, the Syrian leader wished for “good health and happiness to Kim Jong-un and progress and prosperity to the Korean people under his wise guidance.”
The letters from Assad were in response to Kim’s letter congratulating Assad on the 70th anniversary of the country’s ruling Ba’ath party last week.
“The two countries’ friendly relations will be strengthened and developed, given their fight against imperialism,” Kim was quoted as saying by North Korea’s main newspaper Rodong Sinmun.
In the letter, Kim reaffirmed anti-U.S. solidarity, describing the Ba’ath party as resolutely resisting foreign and domestic enemies in the ongoing fight for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria.
North Korea and Syria are known to have nurtured friendly bilateral ties for decades, with the former providing missiles and weapons technologies directly to the latter while Kim Jong-un’s father, Kim Jong-il, was in power. The North has long been suspected of cooperating with Syria on developing nuclear weapons.