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Envoy to North Korea

Following President Donald Trump's visit to Beijing, China said Wednesday it is sending a high-level special envoy to North Korea amid an extended chill in relations between the neighbours over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons and missile programs.

Song Tao, the head of China's ruling Communist Party's International Liaison Department, will travel to Pyongyang on Friday to report on outcomes of the party's national congress held last month, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

Xinhua made no mention of Trump's visit or the North's weapons programs, although Trump has repeatedly called on Beijing to do more to use its influence to pressure Pyongyang into altering its behaviour.

Song would be the first ministerial-level Chinese official to visit North Korea since October 2015 when Politburo Standing Committee member Liu Yunshan visited Pyongyang and met with leader Kim Jong Un. Liu delivered a letter to Kim from Chinese President Xi Jinping (shee jihn-peeng) expressing hopes for a strong relationship, although the respite in frosty ties proved short lived. Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin visited Pyongyang in October of last year.

China's Communist Party and North Korea's ruling Worker's Party have longstanding ties that often supersede formal diplomacy, even while Beijing has long been frustrated with Pyongyang's provocations and unwillingness to reform its economy.

China is also North Korea's largest trading partner and chief source of food and fuel aid, although it says its influence with Kim's regime is often exaggerated by the U.S. and others. While it is enforcing harsh new United Nations sanctions targeting the North's sources of foreign currency, Beijing has called for steps to renew dialogue.

Beijing is also opposed to measures that could bring down Kim's regime, possibly depriving it of a buffer with South Korea and the almost 30,000 U.S. troops stationed there, and leading to a refugee crisis and chaos along its border with the North.

In Beijing last Thursday, Trump urged Xi to pressure North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program.

China can fix the problem "easily and quickly," Trump said in remarks to journalists alongside Xi following meetings between them. He urged Xi to "hopefully work on it very hard."

"If he works on it hard, it will happen. There's no doubt about it," Trump said.



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