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Chinese Foreign Minister Visits North Korea

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The Koreas | Diplomacy | East Asia

Chinese Foreign Minister Visits North Korea

Wang Yi’s visit is being presented as a follow-up on the June visit to Pyongyang by Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Chinese Foreign Minister Visits North Korea
Credit: U.S. State Department Photo

China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, arrived in North Korea on Monday for a three-day visit, according to North Korean state media. Wang held a meeting with his North Korean counterpart Ri Yong Ho on Tuesday.

“Wang Yi, state councilor and foreign minister of the People’s Republic of China, arrived here Monday at the invitation of Ri Yong Ho, foreign minister of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” the Korean Central News Agency, North Korea’s outward-facing state media, reported.

The trip is Wang’s second to North Korea this year after he was part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s delegation to Pyongyang for a summit in June. The summit marked the first visit by a Chinese leader to North Korea in 14 years.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs described Wang’s trip as a bid to follow-up on the outcomes of that summit. “The upcoming visit by State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi is an important follow-up step to implement consensus at the highest level between our two parties and countries and to advance bilateral relations,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said during a press briefing ahead of Wang’s trip.

“China is willing to work with the DPRK to implement the important consensus reached by General Secretary Xi Jinping and Chairman Kim Jong Un as soon as possible,” Wang was quoted as having said in his meeting with Ri, according to a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs release on Tuesday.

Wang pledged “to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations” between China and North Korea. He further committed to “promote friendly exchanges, promote pragmatic cooperation, and closely cooperate in the international arena.”

Wang traveled to Pyongyang in May 2018 as well to discuss bilateral and regional issues with North Korean officials. During that trip, he met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Wang’s latest trip comes days before North Korea’s founding day anniversary of September 9. It also follows a meeting of the Supreme People’s Assembly in North Korea, the country’s analog to a parliament.

At the latest meeting of the Supreme People’s Assembly, the country’s constitution was amended to further elevate Kim Jong Un’s position, making him the apparent head of state of the country. Kim’s leadership status “has been further consolidated to firmly ensure the monolithic guidance of the Supreme Leader over all state affairs,” the state newspaper Rodong Sinmun reported, quoting Choe Ryong Hae, North Korea’s virtual number two, as saying.

The Chinese foreign minster’s trip to Pyongyang also comes amid a continuing freeze between North Korea and the United States. Kim has overseen a spate of missile tests through late-July and the month of August, citing his displeasure over the recent U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises. North Korea also cited South Korea taking delivery of F-35A stealth fighters in July as a reason for its latest missile tests.

U.S. President Donald J. Trump met Kim at the inter-Korean Demilitarized Zone on June 30 and the two agreed to resume working-level talks. Those talks have yet to begin. It’s unclear if Wang will raise the issue of U.S.-North Korea diplomacy while in Pyongyang.