(photo credit: AP)
A high-level North Korean official held talks in Damascus with senior officials of Syria's ruling Baath Party on ways to develop relations between the two countries, Syria's official news agency reported.
The visit by Choe Thae Bok, the visiting speaker of North Korea's rubber-stamp parliament, comes amid lingering suspicions that North Korea may be providing nuclear assistance to Syria.
IAF warplanes struck a target in Syria on Sept. 6., and Western news media have quoted unidentified US officials as saying the strike hit some sort of nuclear facility linked to North Korea, which is now in the process of dismantling its nuclear weapons program.
On Friday, The Washington Post cited American officials as saying the site had characteristics of a small but substantial nuclear reactor similar to North Korea's facility. Syria said an unused military building was hit.
North Korea provides missile technology to Syria but has strongly denied accusations that it spreads its nuclear expertise beyond its borders. Syria also has denied receiving any North Korean nuclear help or embarking on any nuclear program.
The two countries have accused US officials of spreading the allegations for political reasons.
Choe held separate talks in Damascus with Abdullah al-Ahmar and Mohammed Saeed Bkheitan, both assistant heads of the Baath Party command, and reaffirmed support for Syria's position in seeking to regain its lost territory, the Syrian Arab News Agency reported.
In the meeting with al-Ahmar, the two discussed "the challenges and pressures and what the policies of aggression, occupation and hegemony are causing in threats to security and stability in both regions and around the world," SANA said.
Al-Ahmar backed North Korea's "choice to peacefully reunite" the two Koreas, while Choe expressed support for Syria's efforts to regain its occupied territory "and confront the external schemes surrounding the region."
In the meeting with Bkheitan, the two discussed "strengthening relations between the two countries and their two parties in addition to the situation in the Middle East and the Korean Peninsula."
SANA also said Choe in his meeting with Bkheitan "expressed his country's support for Syria's stand and its legitimate right in regaining its occupied territory," a reference to the Golan Heights, which Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war.
Both sides stressed the importance of exchanging visits "and working on achieving the requirements of security and stability in the Middle East and the Korean Peninsula."
North Korean state media said Choe's overseas trip will include a visit to Italy