China announced it would send a special envoy to North Korea in an attempt to cool escalating tensions in the region over the country’s increasingly aggressive rhetoric, officials have announced.
The selected envoy will be the head of Communist Party’s external affairs department Song Tao, who will be tasked with “[informing] the DPRK of the 19th Chinese Communist Party National Congress.”
“The purpose of this visit is to brief about the party congress and exchange views on issues of common interest and bilateral interest,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told reporters on Wednesday.
North Korea’s state news agency also confirmed the visit, which stated it would take place “soon.”
The move comes days after President Donald Trump visited China to urge greater engagement on the North Korean issue, and suggested that Chinese President Xi Jinping could solve the issue “easily and quickly.”
“If he works on it hard, it will happen. There’s no doubt about it,” Trump said.
“I believe Song Tao will take a very clear message on the Trump summit with Xi Jinping,” Cheng Xiaohe, a professor of international relations at the Renmin University of China in Beijing, told the New York Times. “He will focus on North Korea needing to talk about denuclearization.”
Yet Guo Rui, a researcher at the Institute for North Korean and South Korean Studies at Jilin University, told Politico that “representatives are dispatched to brief the other side at a chosen time and chosen level,” and it was therefore “unnecessary to connect it with Trump’s visit to China.”
However, Rui said the visit “shows China’s willingness to see a continuous development of the friendly relations between the two sides.”
Since taking office, Trump has repeatedly sought to increase pressure on Chinese leaders to do more to counter North Korea, and threatened to entirely cut off trade with any nation that continues to trade with North Korea.
China responded to the threat with claims they were making “arduous efforts to peacefully resolve” the issue, although recent trade figures show that China has increased its exports to the hermit state by 21 percent over the past year.
On Wednesday, North Korean state media claimed Trump had been “sentenced to death” by the North Korean people after describing dictator Kim Jong-un as “short and fat.” North Korea has threatened to deliver an “unimaginable strike at an imaginable time” that will turn America into a “pile of ash.”
“The worst crime for which he can never be pardoned is that he dared [to] malignantly hurt the dignity of the supreme leadership,” read an editorial in the state newspaper Rodong Sinmun.“He should know that he is just a hideous criminal sentenced to death by the Korean people.”