PYONGYANG/BEIJING – Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin arrived in North Korea’s capital Monday, suggesting that diplomatic contacts between the two neighboring countries remain unaffected by Pyongyang’s continued nuclear and missile development activities.
Kyodo News confirmed the arrival of a Chinese delegation of more than 10 officials led by the vice foreign minister at Pyongyang’s international airport.
This is the first known visit by a high-ranking Chinese diplomat since February, when the country’s top nuclear envoy, Wu Dawei, traveled to Pyongyang.
The Chinese delegation is in North Korea to attend a meeting of the two countries’ border joint committee, the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said without elaborating what issues would be addressed.
In addition to being in charge of China’s relations with other Asian countries, Liu’s areas of responsibility include boundary and maritime affairs.
The main purpose of the visit may be unrelated to North Korea’s nuclear issue. But it comes as members of the U.N. Security Council negotiate on how best to punish North Korea for its fifth nuclear test in September.
Amid swirling speculation that North Korea may conduct its sixth nuclear test or go ahead with another satellite launch using banned ballistic missile technology, it would be little wonder if Liu asked about Pyongyang’s real intentions during his trip.
The United States and its allies, including Japan and South Korea, have urged China, North Korea’s most important ally, to play a bigger role in reining in its nuclear ambitions.
However, China has said numerous times that it does not hold the key to the nuclear issue, but rather the United States and the North Korea should resolve each other’s concerns.
Liu’s arrival also comes a day before the 66th anniversary of the Chinese volunteer army’s participation in the Korean War. It remains to be seen whether the Chinese delegation will mark the anniversary together with North Koreans.
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