China is sending a senior diplomat to North Korea, the media reported on Wednesday, reopening a channel of dialogue with the isolated regime.
The announcement comes a week after US President Donald Trump visited China and asked President Xi Jinping to work hard to fix the problem of North Korea’s nuclear programme.
Song Tao, who heads the Communist Party’s External Affairs Department, will leave for North Korea on Friday to “inform” the government there about the recently concluded Communist Party Congress in Beijing, Xinhua news agency reported.
The report did not say if Song would discuss North Korea’s nuclear programme or meet the country’s leader Kim Jong-un.
Nevertheless, it is an important opportunity for Beijing to reopen a channel of dialogue with the North, experts said, as relations between the two countries have deteriorated significantly in recent years.
China has an official special envoy to North Korea, Kong Xuanyou, but he is not believed to have visited Pyongyang since taking up the job in August.
His predecessor, Wu Dawei, last visited North Korea in February 2016. The song will be the first ministerial-level visit since Politburo Standing Committee member Liu Yunshan visited Pyongyang and met Kim in October 2015.
While in Beijing last week, Trump said China can fix the North Korea problem “quickly and easily” and urged Xi “to hopefully work on it very hard”.
After leaving China, he suggested more action by Beijing was coming up.