China will send a special envoy to North Korea amid pressure from the United States for Beijing to help stop Pyongyang’s nuclear development program.
Song Tao, who heads the ruling Communist Party’s external affairs department, will leave for North Korea on Friday, Reuters says, citing a report from the official Xinhua news agency.
He will “inform the DPRK of the 19th CPC National Congress and visit the DPRK”, Xinhua said on Wednesday, using the North’s official name and referring to China’s recently concluded Communist Party Congress at which Xi further cemented his power.
North Korea’s KCNA news agency confirmed the visit, but said only that it would take place “soon”.
The trip will come just a week after US President Donald Trump visited Beijing as part of a lengthy Asia tour, where he pressed for greater action to rein in North Korea, especially from China, with which North Korea does 90 percent of its trade.
It is not clear how long Song would stay, but he has already visited Vietnam and Laos to inform them of the results of the congress, a typical courtesy China extends other communist countries after such important meetings.
It is also unclear where Song will meet North Korea’s youthful leader Kim Jong-un.
Kim and Xi exchanged messages of congratulations and thanks over the Chinese party congress, but neither leader has visited the other’s country since assuming power.
Song’s department is in charge of the party’s relations with foreign political parties, and has traditionally served as a conduit for Chinese diplomacy with North Korea.
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.
China’s new special envoy for North Korea, Kong Xuanyou, who took up his position in August, is not believed to have yet visited the country since assuming the job.
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