Senior North Korean envoy visits Beijing after China coal ban

North Korean Vice-Foreign Minister Ri Kil Song arrived in Beijing on Feb 28, 2017, after China said it would be banning coal imports from the reclusive state.
North Korean Vice-Foreign Minister Ri Kil Song arrived in Beijing on Feb 28, 2017, after China said it would be banning coal imports from the reclusive state. PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (REUTERS) - A senior North Korean diplomat arrived in Beijing on Tuesday (Feb 28) for talks in the first such high-level visit since June last year, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported, after China halted coal imports from the impoverished nation under UN sanctions.

North Korea's main diplomatic ally said it would ban coal imports about a week after the isolated country this month tested an intermediate-range ballistic missile, for the first time since US President Donald Trump took office.

The North's Vice Foreign Minister Ri Kil Song arrived by air in the Chinese capital, Kyodo said, in the first such visit since a June trip by Ri Su Yong, a member of the country's ruling party politburo.

There was no indication of Ri's agenda, but he was expected to hold talks with senior Chinese officials, Kyodo said.

The visit comes after North Korea issued a rare reproach of China, saying it was "dancing to the tune" of the United States for halting coal imports over the North's nuclear and missile programmes.

The move aimed to comply with UN sanctions imposed after nuclear tests by the North, the latest in September.

In a Reuters interview, Trump said he welcomed China's ban, but Beijing could solve the challenge posed by the North "very easily if they want to," turning up pressure on China to do more.

China later dismissed the renewed pressure from Trump over its role in North Korea, saying the crux of the matter was a dispute between Washington and Pyongyang.