China, N. Korea Hold 'Strategic Dialogue'

China, N. Korea Hold 'Strategic Dialogue'

A high-ranking North Korean official with long experience as his country’s international nuclear negotiator held talks Wednesday with Chinese officials, Beijing’s foreign ministry announced.

North Korean first vice foreign minister Kim Kye-Gwan and Chinese vice foreign minister Zhang Yesui co-chaired a “strategic dialogue” meeting between their ministries in the Chinese capital, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

Kim also met Wu Dawei, China’s special envoy for Korean peninsula affairs, Hua said.

The talks come amid ongoing tensions on the peninsula over the North’s nuclear programme and mark the second high-level visit to China in less than a month by a North Korean official.

The visit also coincides with talks in Seoul on Wednesday and Thursday between United Nations’ chief Ban Ki-moon and Chinese leaders.

China has come under pressure to encourage North Korea to halt its nuclear programme after the reclusive nation in February carried out its third underground nuclear test, which brought worldwide condemnation.

Wednesday’s meeting follows one last month between Chinese president Xi Jinping and North Korean special envoy Choe Ryong-Hae, a close confidant of the North’s leader Kim Jong-Un.

Tensions over the nuclear programme have waned somewhat in recent months, amid a series of high profile meetings including a summit between US President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

But North Korea unexpectedly cancelled much-anticipated talks with the South last week.

China, the North’s sole ally, is seen as the country with the most influence on Pyongyang’s actions.

Kim Kye-Gwan has been a key figure in international negotiations aimed at persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear programme in exchange for aid and security guarantees.

The so-called six party talks, which began in 2003 but have been long dormant, also include South Korea, Japan, Russia, China and the United States.

South Korea’s President Park Geun-Hye is due to make her first visit to China later this month.