China sends high-level diplomatic envoy to North Korea

Korean flag flies on a mast at the Permanent Mission of North Korea in Geneva

Song Tao, the head of the Communist Party's worldwide liaison department, will visit Pyongyang as special envoy of President Xi Jinping, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday.

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 official Xinhua News Agency said, "The director of the ruling Communist Party's International Liaison Department, Song Tao, will travel to Pyongyang on Friday to report on the party's national congress held last month".

China's announcement came a day after the end of Trump's five-nation tour of Asia, during which the USA leader held meetings with Xi and urged him to act fast to rein in North Korea, warning that "time is quickly running out".

Song will be the first high-level Chinese official to visit North Korea this year.

Earlier, Politburo Standing Committee member Liu Yunshan had met with leader Kim Jong-un.

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

It's quite possible Xi wants to explore new relations with North Korea as he starts his second term in office. China's support of new UN Security Council sanctions resolutions, the latest on September 11, following the North's sixth nuclear test earlier that month.

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He reiterated that China was committed to resolving the Korean nuclear issue peacefully through consultation.

"Song will inform the DPRK of the 19th CPC National Congress and visit the DPRK", it said, referring to the abbreviation of North Korea's full name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

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 is the linchpin of any such effort, and in Beijing Trump said it can fix the North Korea problem "easily and quickly".

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

China and Russian Federation have campaigned for a "dual track" approach in which the United States would halt its military drills in the region in return for North Korea suspending its weapons programmes, but the proposal has not gained traction.

"Before Trump's visit to China, there was a strong smell of gunpowder between the U.S. and North Korea", Wang said. "So China is trying to do all sorts of work, first to persuade the United States, and now also North Korea".

An editorial in North Korea's ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun lambasted Trump's visit to South Korea, where he denounced Pyongyang's "cruel dictatorship".

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