China's President Xi Jinping calls for calm, restraint on Korean Peninsula in meet with North Korean envoy

China's President Xi Jinping (left) met Senior North Korean diplomat Ri Su Yong on Wednesday (June 1), China's Xinhua state news agency said.
China's President Xi Jinping (left) met Senior North Korean diplomat Ri Su Yong on Wednesday (June 1), China's Xinhua state news agency said. PHOTOS: AFP, REUTERS

BEIJING (Reuters) - China hopes all parties on the Korean Peninsula will remain calm and exercise restraint, President Xi Jinping told a visiting North Korean envoy on Wednesday (June 1), China's Foreign Ministry reported.

China sets great store on developing friendly relations with North Korea, and was willing to work with North Korea to consolidate that friendship, Mr Xi added during his meeting with one of North Korea's highest-profile officials, career diplomat Ri Su Yong, who is part of a visiting delegation from North Korea's ruling party.

"China's position on the peninsula issue is clear and consistent. We hope all sides remain calm and exercise restraint, increase communication and dialogue and maintain regional peace and stability," the ministry cited Mr Xi as saying.

The rare meeting in Beijing between Mr Xi and one of North Korea's highest-profile officials follows a flurry of weapons tests in the run-up to the first congress in 36 years of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party in May, when young leader Kim Jong Un consolidated his control.

Mr Kim has yet to visit China since assuming office after his father died in 2011. Chinese state television showed pictures of the two men meeting in Beijing's Great Hall of the People.

China is reclusive North Korea's only major ally but has been angered by its nuclear and missile programmes. China signed up to harsh new United Nations sanctions against North Korea in March in response to its fourth nuclear test in January and a satellite launch in February.

There was no direct mention of Tuesday's failed missile test, the latest in a string of unsuccessful ballistic missile tests by North Korea.

Mr Ri passed on a verbal message to Mr Xi from Mr Kim, Xinhua said, in which Mr Kim expressed a desire to work hard with China to maintain peace and stability on the peninsula and across North-east Asia.

Mr Xi welcomed Mr Ri's visit to report on the North Korean party congress, which Mr Xi said showed the importance Mr Kim attached to ties with China, Xinhua added.

Mr Xi said he hoped North Korea could achieve even greater achievements in improving its economy and people's livelihoods, Xinhua said.

The United States plans to use high-level Sino-US talks in Beijing next week to discuss ways to bring greater pressure to bear on North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions, a senior US official said on Tuesday.

But China has been reluctant to take tougher action, such as completely shutting its border with North Korea, for fear that North Korea could collapse in chaos.

Mr Ri was the country's foreign minister until he was named a member of the politburo during a recent congress of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party.

On Tuesday, Mr Ri met the head of the international department of China's Communist Party.