April 13 (UPI) — A top Chinese official arrived in Pyongyang on Friday as head of a Chinese performing arts delegation, and he may meet with Kim Jong Un to discuss critical issues for the peninsula.
In a sign of warmer ties between Pyongyang and Beijing following a historical summit in the Chinese capital, Song Tao and the Chinese group are participating in North Korea’s April Spring Friendship Art Festival, Yonhap reported Friday.
The festival is being held to celebrate the birthday of North Korea founder Kim Il Sung on April 15, according to NHK.
Song, who is the head of the Chinese Communist Party’s International Department, previously visited North Korea in November.
Song may have attempted to secure a meeting with the North Korean leader but was unable to gain access to the reclusive Kim at the time.
Dramatic shifts in North Korea diplomacy mean Song could make more progress during the current visit.
The Beijing official is highly likely to meet with his counterpart Ri Su Yong, head of the international department of the Korean Workers’ Party. Denuclearization on the peninsula, which China seeks, could be raised as an issue, according to Yonhap.
If Song does meet with Kim, Kim will likely have a message, to be delivered to Chinese President Xi Jinping, regarding denuclearization.
The two sides could also discuss plans for Xi’s possible visit to Pyongyang.
Cho Sung-ryul, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Strategy in Seoul, said there is a “high probability” Song’s visit could mean the restoration of party-to-party relations.
“The visit of the Chinese performing arts troupe could be a watershed moment,” Cho said.