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Xi to send envoy to Pyongyang this week

Nov 16,2017
Chinese President Xi Jinping will send a senior diplomat as a special envoy to North Korea on Friday, reported state-run Xinhua News Agency on Wednesday, amid ongoing tension over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

Song Tao, who heads the International Liaison Department of China’s Communist Party, is expected to visit Pyongyang to explain to North Korean officials the results of the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, which concluded last month and further cemented Xi’s power.

He may meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un while there, along with other senior officials in Pyongyang.

Earlier this month, he also traveled to Vietnam and Laos to brief the communist governments there on the results of the congress.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency also confirmed on the same day that Song will be sent as a special envoy of Xi to visit Pyongyang “soon,” without giving further details.

The announcement comes a week after Xi held a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, who ended his Asia tour Tuesday.

On Oct. 25, Kim Jong-un sent a message congratulating Xi on the success of China’s party congress. Xi responded by calling for sound and stable ties between Beijing and Pyongyang. China supported a new UN Security Council sanctions resolution on Sept. 11, following the North’s sixth nuclear test earlier that month.

China’s announcement comes ahead of Trump saying he has a “major announcement” to make on the results of his 12-day Asia tour, namely on North Korea and trade.

Trump has been urging China to do more to rein in North Korea, and North Korea has refrained from any ballistic missile tests over the past two months, which has led to speculation of a possible diplomatic opening.

Thus, Song may also convey any message from the talks between Xi and Trump last week.

He will be the first ministerial Chinese official to visit Pyongyang since October 2015, when Liu Yunshan, then a member of the Chinese Politburo Standing Committee, met with North Korean leader Kim. At the time, Liu was the most senior official to visit Pyongyang since Kim took power at the end of 2011.

Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin visited North Korea in October 2016 to attend a meeting of a border joint committee.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]