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Days after Trump's visit, China to send special envoy to North Korea

15 November 2017

With all the verbal barbs flying between Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump these days, China's decision to send its most senior official to North Korea in more than two years could be a welcome opportunity to defuse the growing tensions between Washington and Pyongyang.

While Song would be the first ministerial-level Chinese official to visit North Korea since October 2015, he is not directly connected to China's efforts to convince Pyongyang to cease its nuclear weapons program and return to talks.

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, further cementing Xi's power.

For the unversed, Trump has repeatedly called on China to do more to use its influence to pressure North Korea into altering its behaviour.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during the Second Plenum of the 7th Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang October 8, 2017.

"One striking thing was North Korea was absent from his outcome list", said Shi Yinhong, a foreign affairs adviser to the State Council and director of Renmin University's Center on American Studies in Beijing.

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The trip, however, comes amid global concerns over North Korea's nuclear weapons programme and missile tests. While Xi and Kim have yet to meet, the Chinese leader called for stable ties in a message to Kim shortly before Trump's Asia tour.

High-level dialogue between North Korea and China was scaled back after the 2013 execution of Kim's uncle, Jang Song Thaek, who advocated Chinese-style economic reform and had been the major go-to person for leaders in Beijing.

"At the same time, China and the DPRK will exchange views on relations between the two parties and the two countries, as well as on other issues of mutual concern", he said.

Thus, Song may also convey any message from the talks between Xi and Trump last week. Beijing has also tried to defuse tensions between the USA and North Korea. "So China is trying to do all sorts of work, first to persuade the United States, and now also North Korea".

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.

"He should know that he is just a disgusting criminal sentenced to death by the Korean people", it added.

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Days after Trump's visit, China to send special envoy to North Korea