중앙데일리

Chinese envoy may visit North early next week

Feb 06,2010
In this file photo, Wang Jiarui, left, shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, right, on Jan. 23, 2009. [YONHAP]
A key Chinese Communist Party official is rumored to be headed to North Korea, where he is expected to urge the North to return to the stalled six-party nuclear disarmament talks.

Diplomatic sources said yesterday that Wang Jiarui, director of the international liaison department at the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, will visit Pyongyang early next week.

“Wang’s trip would be a part of the annual exchange between China and North Korea,” one source said. “But this time, Wang could create important breakthroughs on the six-party talks.”

China is the chair nation of the six-party discussions, which involve South Korea, North Korea, the United States, Russia and Japan. The talks were last staged in December 2008. In response to international condemnation following the North’s long-range rocket launch in April last year, North Korea vowed it would never again take part in the talks.

It has since sent mixed signals: The North once expressed willingness to return to the multilateral dialogue, but later said that would depend on the progress of its bilateral talks with the United States. The North has also asked that United Nations sanctions be lifted before the six-party sessions resume.

The Foreign Ministry in Seoul kept mum about the speculation. An official said nothing has been confirmed about Wang’s trip, but added, “We’re keeping a close eye on this development because Wang has traveled to North Korea in the past.”

North Korea has bristled at others’ prodding for a return to the six-party table but has been more receptive to China.

Last September, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il told the Chinese presidential envoy Dai Bingguo that the North would be “willing to resolve the relevant [nuclear] problems through bilateral and multilateral talks.” It was the first shift of the North’s stance since April.

The North reiterated that willingness in October, when Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited Pyongyang to observe the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

If he does go, Wang is expected to meet Kim and deliver a letter from Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Wang, 60, joined the Communist Party in 1973. He has also served as vice mayor and mayor of Qingdao City, a major industrial city in the east.

He was named the vice minister of the international liaison department in 2000. His first trip to Pyongyang came in February 2001, just before Kim Jong-il’s birthday.

After being promoted to international affairs chief in 2003, Wang visited Kim in 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2009, each time taking with him messages from Hu.

Soon after North Korea declared itself a de facto nuclear-power state in February 2005, Wang delivered an oral message from Hu to Kim urging the latter to return to the six-party talks. The January 2009 visit made Wang the first foreign official to meet Kim after the North Korean leader’s stroke in August 2008.

Wang’s scheduled visit to Pyongyang last summer was abruptly canceled as China joined the rest of the international community in condemning the North’s nuclear test in May.


By Yoo Jee-ho, Kang Chan-ho [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]



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