China statesman will discuss visit to North Korea

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China statesman will discuss visit to North Korea

China’s Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin arrived in Seoul for a three-day visit yesterday, immediately following senior-level talks in Pyongyang.

There, Liu conveyed a strong message to North Korean officials that Beijing will “never allow war or chaos on the Korean Peninsula,” according to China’s Foreign Ministry.

South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed yesterday that during his visit, Liu is scheduled to meet Minister of Foreign Affairs Yun Byung-se, Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae and Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Kyung-soo today, as well as Blue House officials.

Liu is expected to brief South Korean officials on his trip to Pyongyang and discuss North Korean affairs and regional issues, said the ministry spokesman, Cho Tai-young, yesterday. The meeting is also a follow-up on the agreement made last June in Beijing between President Park Geun-hye and Chinese President Xi Jinping to deepen communications. Liu headed to Pyongyang on Monday on a four-day trip, where he met with North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun and top nuclear envoy Vice Marshal Ri Yong-ho, including officials from the Korea Workers’ Party and the Economic Development Commission.

Liu was Beijing’s most senior envoy known to have visited Pyongyang since North Korean leader Kim Jong-un executed Jang Song-thaek, Kim’s uncle who was once the second most powerful man in the country and had close ties with China, in November.

Hua Chunying, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, described the visit as a part of “regular contact” between the two foreign ministries.

Liu also said there that China hoped all concerned parties could work together to ease tensions on the peninsula to create conditions for the early resumption of the long-stalled six-party talks between China, Russia, Japan, the United States and the two Koreas.

His stop in North Korea came right after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s Asia visit concluded last week. Kerry met with officials in Seoul and Beijing, where he prioritized North Korean affairs in talks with the presidents and foreign ministers of both nations.

Kerry particularly urged Beijing to step up its pressure on Pyongyang and called on Xi on Feb. 14 to “use every tool at their disposal” to dissuade North Korea from pursuing its nuclear weapons program.

Chinese officials apparently said at the time that they would take “additional steps” if North Korea was not willing to stop its nuclear efforts and return to serious negotiations.

At a briefing yesterday, when asked if Liu would speak with Cho Tae-yong, the top South Korean envoy to the six-party talks, to discuss a resumption of the dialogue, spokesman Cho, of the Foreign Ministry, responded, “It is not planned at the moment.”

Liu, a career diplomat who specializes in treaty and law, and boundary and ocean affairs, previously served as the Chinese ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

Separately, a group of 42 Korean ruling and opposition lawmakers headed to China yesterday for a four-day trip to meet with political leaders and officials in Beijing and Shanghai.

The delegation, led by ruling Saenuri Party Representative Chung Mong-joon, met with President Xi and top legislator Zhang Dejiang, the chairman of the Standing Committee of the National Peoples’ Congress.

BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]



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