Chinese Vice Premier to Visit North Korea

Posted July 5th, 2011 at 4:55 pm (UTC-5)
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China's foreign ministry says a high-ranking official will pay a four-day visit to North Korea next week.

A spokesman for the ministry, Hong Lei, told reporters Tuesday that Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang will lead a Chinese delegation to North Korea for a visit starting July 10.

Chinese news media quote Hong as saying the delegation will attend events marking the 50th anniversary of the signing of a treaty of friendship and cooperation between the two countries.

The official Xinhua news agency says a senior member of the North Korean national assembly will visit China at about the same time. Hong said Yang Hyong Sop, vice president of the assembly's presidium, will visit China from July 9 to 12.

China is North Korea's closest ally and benefactor.

However, North Korea has annoyed even Beijing with its 2009 nuclear test and other actions that have sparked international criticism. China has urged parties in the stalled talks on North Korea's nuclear disarmament to return to the negotiating table. The last round of six-party talks, held in China in December 2008, ended in a stalemate.

South Korea and the United States say it is pointless to resume the talks unless the leadership in Pyongyang can offer concrete evidence that it is serious about resuming talks.

China also is seeking to coax its impoverished neighbor to reform its crumbling state-run economy. North Korean leader Kim Jong Il visited China in May, purportedly to learn from China's economic development. Following his visit, the North Korean government announced it will set up an economic zone on two islands on the border with China.