Report: Chinese envoy to visit North Korea

Also Saturday, a special envoy for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Seoul for talks with South Korean officials before visiting North Korea.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
February 6, 2010 04:40
2 minute read.
south korean diplomant

south korean diplomat. (photo credit: Associated Press)

 
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A senior Chinese official is traveling to North Korea on Saturday, a news report said, in what is seen as a mission to jump-start stalled international talks on ending its nuclear weapons programs.

Wang Jiarui, head of the liaison office of China's ruling Communist Party, is to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and deliver a message from Chinese President Hu Jintao, South Korea's Dong-a Ilbo newspaper reported Saturday, citing unidentified South Korean presidential officials.

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The four-day trip is part of a regular exchange of visits by the longtime allies, the report said.

Calls to the presidential office seeking comment went unanswered Saturday.

Other South Korean media carried similar reports, though they differed on the timing of his trip.

Wang met Kim during a January 2009 trip to Pyongyang. Kim said then that North Korea was "dedicated to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula" and wanted to move international talks forward, according to Beijing's Xinhua News Agency.

China is North Korea's biggest trading partner, a key aid donor and a longtime ally dating back to the 1950-53 Korean War. Its influence is seen as crucial in getting the North to return to the six-nation disarmament talks, which have been stalled since late 2008.



In Beijing, staffer Yang Lei from the Communist Party's international department refused to comment Friday on reports of Wang's trip, saying only "the whole thing has not been confirmed yet."

Also Saturday, a special envoy for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Seoul for talks with South Korean officials before visiting North Korea. During his Feb. 9-12 trip to Pyongyang, UN political chief B. Lynn Pascoe will discuss "all issues of mutual interest and concern in a comprehensive manner," Ban's office said last month.

North Korea, which tested an atomic bomb last year and is believed to have enough weaponized plutonium for at least a half dozen more, walked away from the international disarmament talks last year.

The other participants, China, the US, Japan, South Korea and Russia, have been trying to get the talks back on track. North Korea, however, has pushed Washington for a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War and a lifting of sanctions first.

This week, Assistant US Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said no discussion about political or economic sanctions can take place before the disarmament talks are back on.

There also has been speculation in recent weeks that North Korean leader Kim may travel to China soon. Beijing extended an invitation to Kim last year to visit at his convenience.



Kim has visited China and Russia, the North's two major remaining allies, by train. He last traveled to China in 2006.

He had planned to travel to Beijing in late January but canceled his plans, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said.

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