Senior Chinese diplomat to visit North Korea this week

Lester Mason
November 15, 2017

The announcement of the visit Wednesday seems especially timely because it comes a day after Trump wrapped up his extended tour of Asia.

China just had its National Congress, the closest thing the Communist party has to elections. China has implemented United Nations sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear and missile tests.

BEIJING (Reuters) - A senior Chinese diplomat will visit North Korea from Friday as a special envoy of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Beijing said, although it did not say he was planning to discuss North Korea's nuclear and ballistic programs. Trump has said that China should do more to rein in its wayward neighbor.

While Song would be the first ministerial-level Chinese official to visit North Korea since October 2015, he is not directly connected to China's efforts to convince Pyongyang to cease its nuclear weapons program and return to talks.

High-level dialogue between North Korea and China was scaled back after the 2013 execution of Kim's uncle, Jang Song Thaek, who advocated Chinese-style economic reform and had been the major go-to person for leaders in Beijing.

It's quite possible Xi wants to explore new relations with North Korea as he starts his second term in office.


Chinese President Xi Jinping, center, presides over the opening ceremony of the 19th Party Congress held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017.

With all the verbal barbs flying between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump these days, China's decision to send its most senior official to North Korea in more than two years could be a welcome opportunity to defuse the growing tensions between Washington and Pyongyang.

Earlier this month, he also traveled to Vietnam and Laos to brief the communist governments there on the results of the congress. Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin visited North Korea last October to attend a meeting of a border joint committee.

Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang made the comment at a daily news briefing, adding that he was not aware of specific arrangements on who the Chinese envoy, Song Tao, will meet while in the North.

Trump asked Xi last week to work "very hard" on resolving the crisis, while the Chinese leader repeated his plea for negotiations to resolve the dispute peacefully.

A department official said last month that China's Communist Party continues to hold talks and maintain contacts with its North Korean counterpart, describing the two countries' friendship as important for regional stability. He has since retired and it's unclear if his successor, Kong Xuanyou, has gone to the country since he took up the job in August.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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