China’s foreign minister heads to North Korea for talks

A possible visit by China’s Xi to Pyongyang and the recent Koreas summit to dominate discussion of Wang’s two-day visit.

A possible visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to North Korea in early June and the recent inter-Korean summit are among the top issues in the agenda during Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s two-day visit to Pyongyang, according to the South Korean news agency, Yonhap.

Starting on Wednesday, Wang’s trip to North Korea – a first for a Chinese foreign minister since 2007 – is seen as part of Beijing’s continued effort to repair ties with Pyongyang after years of tension over its ballistic missiles and nuclear tests.

Images published by AFP news agency on Wednesday showed Wang as he greeted North Korean officials led by Vice Foreign Minister Ri Kil-song upon his arrival in the North Korean capital. 

Lu Kang, China’s foreign ministry spokesman, earlier said that Wang’s visit was upon the invitation of North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho.

While in Pyongyang, Wang is “likely to be briefed” on the outcome of the breakthrough meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in on April 27 in Panmunjom, according to Yonhap. 

During that meeting, the two leaders pledged to formally end the 1950s Korean War and pursue denuclearisation in the two rival Koreas.

Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post (SCMP) also reported that Wang “could make the case for a four-party talks” with the two Koreas and the United States on the future of the Korean Peninsula. 

China is seen as the closest political and economic ally of North Korea. But relations between the two countries have frayed after Beijing imposed United Nations-backed sanctions against Pyongyang following its missile and nuclear tests.

‘China wants in on talks’

Zhao Tong, of Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre for Global Policy in Beijing, was quoted by SCMP as saying that the visit of Wang to Pyongyang “might be evidence of China’s strong will” to be involved in future talks on Korea. 

On Tuesday, it was also reported that Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang will hold talks with South Korea’s Moon and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on May 9. It is their first trilateral meeting since 2015 with North Korea expected to be on top of the discussion.   

Wang’s visit in Pyongyang on Wednesday and Thursday comes as Kim prepares for the meeting with US President Donald Trump possibly later this month or in early June.

A spokesman for South Korean President Moon said on Tuesday that the demilitarised zone of Panmunjom would be a “meaningful” venue for the upcoming summit between Trump and Kim. 

Yonhap reported that a visit to Pyongyang by China’s Xi in early June could soon follow the Trump-Kim meeting.

In March, Kim visited Beijing for the first time since coming to power in 2011. During his meeting with Xi in Beijing, he made the pledge to denuclearise if South Korea and the US respond to his efforts “with goodwill”.

Source: Al Jazeera