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China envoy discusses ‘situation of the Korean peninsula’ with North

This picture taken on November 17 shows a meeting between Song Tao (third left), head of the International Liaison Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, and Choe Ryong-hae (second right), member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, in Pyongyang.
This picture taken on November 17 shows a meeting between Song Tao (third left), head of the International Liaison Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, and Choe Ryong-hae (second right), member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, in Pyongyang. KCNA VIA KNS/AFP

China envoy discusses ‘situation of the Korean peninsula’ with North

Choe Sang-hun

SEOUL, South Korea — A special envoy from President Xi Jinping of China discussed regional and mutual concerns with senior North Korean officials in Pyongyang on Saturday, the North’s state media said.

The trip by the special envoy, Song Tao, to the North Korean capital came as the Trump administration pressed Xi to help restrain North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs by exerting China’s economic leverage over its impoverished neighbour.

“The two sides exchanged their views on such matters of mutual concern as the situation of the Korean Peninsula and region and bilateral relations,” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said, without offering further details on Song’s discussions with Ri Su Yong, a top North Korean foreign relations official.

During his visit, Song was widely expected to try to ease the standoff over North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs.

Relations between the two neighbouring communist countries have shown signs of fraying in recent years as North Korea stepped up its missile and nuclear tests, and China supported U.S.-led efforts to impose increasingly tougher sanctions against the North.

President Donald Trump met with Xi in Beijing last week and called on China to do more to rein in its neighbour. He later expressed his expectation for the sending of the Chinese envoy by tweeting: “A big move, we’ll see what happens!”

North Korea has not conducted any missile tests since Sept. 15, raising cautious hopes in the region that the country might be ready to ease tensions. But gaps remain wide between the United States and North Korea, limiting Beijing’s ability to broker a compromise, analysts said.

China’s state-controlled Global Times cautioned against expecting too much from Song’s visit.

“Song is not a magician,” the newspaper said in an editorial Friday. “The key to easing the situation on the peninsula lies in the hands of Washington and Pyongyang. If both sides insist on their own logic and refuse to move in the same direction, even if Song opens a door for talks, the door could be closed anytime.”

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