New Chinese ambassador to North Korea Wang Yajun arrived Monday in the country that had shut down its borders to prevent COVID-19 infections, filling the post vacated by his predecessor about 15 months ago, a source familiar with bilateral relations said.

Wang Yajun. (CNS/Kyodo)

Wang is believed to be the first foreign diplomat to be accepted by Pyongyang since it implemented strict border controls in January 2020. China is North Korea's closest and most influential ally in economic terms.

China's ambassador to North Korea had been absent since Wang's predecessor Li Jinjun returned to his home country in late 2021. Wang formerly served as a deputy head of the ruling Communist Party's International Liaison Department.

A regular freight train service between Chinese and North Korean border cities fully resumed last September, with vehicle transportation services also restarting late last year.

However, North Korea's strict COVID border controls remain in place in principle.

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