BEIJING – Amid renewed tensions between the two countries, a senior North Korean diplomat arrived in Beijing on Tuesday for possible talks with Chinese officials.
The visit by Vice Foreign Minister Ri Kil Song marks the first known visit to China by a high-ranking North Korean official in about nine months. Ri Su Yong, a vice chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea, traveled to Beijing in May last year.
China and North Korea have yet to announce the purpose of the deputy foreign minister’s visit, but a Kyodo journalist confirmed that Ri rode in a car prepared by the Chinese government from Beijing’s international airport, instead of in a North Korean Embassy vehicle, and headed to the central part of the capital, suggesting that his visit is for talks and not a stopover en route to a third country.
Earlier this month, China announced the suspension of all imports of coal from North Korea until the end of this year, based on U.N. sanctions imposed on Pyongyang for its banned development of nuclear and missile technologies.
For North Korea, coal is its biggest export item and the surprise move by China is almost certain to step up the effectiveness of the sanctions and pressure by the international community on its regime.
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