Days after United States President Donald Trump visited his Chinese counterpart, Beijing is sending a special envoy to North Korea.
China’s state-run media announced that Song Tao, head of Beijing’s International Liaison Department, will visit Pyongyang on Friday. According to the New China News Agency, Song will “inform” North Korean officials about the recent 19th party Congress, a major political conclave that saw Chinese President Xi Jinping assume another five years in power.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang during a regular briefing on Wednesday declined to comment on weather Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions will be on the agenda. However, he said Tao will “exchange views on major issues of common concern.”
China is the North’s biggest trading partner, covering 90% of the Hermit Kingdom’s trade volume. But in recent months, China has taken a tougher stance on the nuclear-weapons armed country. Recently, China announced it will coal exports from North Korea and cut ties with banks operating there.
President Trump on Sunday Tweeted that Xi said he “is upping the sanctions” and working “very hard” to curtail North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Since February, the North has tested 15 missiles. Meanwhile, it’s leader Kim Jong Un has repeatedly threatened the U.S., raising fears that the country is bent on mounting nuclear warheads on missiles capable of striking the continental U.S.
China has also agreed to support the United Nations Security Council’s latest round of sanctions which could slash $1 billion from North Korea’s export revenue.
“The optimistic spin is that Donald Trump got through to the Chinese, and maybe the Chinese are taking this seriously — they’re going to send somebody to Pyongyang to talk about coming around on the nuclear program,” said Robert Kelly, associate professor in political science at South Korea’s Pusan National University, in an interview with The Los Angeles Times. “But it’s probably more information sharing — the North Koreans want to know what’s going on.”