(Bloomberg) -- China’s top legislator met North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un on Saturday, underlining Beijing’s efforts to deepen cooperation with Pyongyang, which has drawn closer to Russia.

Zhao Leji, China’s third-ranking official, met Kim on the last day of a “goodwill visit” to Pyongyang, Xinhua News reported. They underscored the importance of the two countries’ bilateral relationship, the Chinese state news agency said.

Kim reaffirmed his position to further develop long-standing ties with China, the official Korean Central News Agency said on Sunday.  

Kim said the visit by the Chinese delegation reflects “very weighty significance in demonstrating the invincibility of the DPRK-China friendship and further developing the traditional friendly and cooperative relations between the two countries as required by the times,” the report said. DPRK refers to the North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Zhao, the chair of the standing committee of China’s top legislative body, is the highest-ranking Chinese official to visit North Korea since President Xi Jinping held a summit meeting with Kim in Pyongyang in 2019. 

China has been North Korea’s biggest benefactor for years, providing a lifeline that has kept its economy afloat. The US and its partners have been pressing China to use its influence on North Korea to rein in Kim’s nuclear ambitions.

The US, South Korea and others in recent months have said Kim is receiving massive amounts of aid from Russia in exchange for transfers of weapons for use by the Kremlin’s forces in its war on Ukraine.

(Updates with Kim Jong Un’s remarks from third paragraph.)

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