Chinese Foreign Minister visits N. Korea for first time since 2007

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (left) meeting his North Korean counterpart Ri Yong Ho in Pyongyang yesterday. The two top diplomats had met in Beijing last month.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (left) meeting his North Korean counterpart Ri Yong Ho in Pyongyang yesterday. The two top diplomats had met in Beijing last month.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PYONGYANG • China's Foreign Minister arrived in Pyongyang yesterday, the highest-ranking Chinese official to visit North Korea in years as Beijing tries to mend fences with its nuclear-armed neighbour.

The two-day visit by Mr Wang Yi follows a landmark inter-Korea summit and precedes a meeting between the North's leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump in the coming weeks, Agence France-Presse reported.

Mr Wang met his North Korean counterpart Ri Yong Ho yesterday, Kyodo News said. The two top diplomats met in Beijing last month, days after Mr Kim travelled to China for talks with President Xi Jinping.

Mr Wang is the first Chinese foreign minister to visit the North since 2007, a lapse that highlights the rough patch in relations between the allies in recent years.

During his visit, Mr Wang is expected to discuss last week's inter-Korea summit and the upcoming meeting between Mr Kim and Mr Trump, according to media reports.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday said North Korea must commit to immediately dismantling its weapons programme, adding that efforts to denuclearise Pyongyang were still in the "beginning stages" and the outcomes "unknown".

CALL FOR PERMANENT PEACE

China is guarding the peace and security of the Korean peninsula all the time... The temporary truce system should be replaced with a permanent peace regime on the Korean peninsula.

MS HUA CHUNYING, a spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry.

"We are committed to the permanent, verifiable, irreversible dismantling of North Korea's weapons of mass destruction programme and to do so without delay," said Mr Pompeo during his swearing-in ceremony at the State Department's headquarters in Washington, reported Reuters.

During their summit last Friday, South Korean President Moon Jae In and Mr Kim agreed to pursue "complete denuclearisation" on the Korean peninsula and strive to formally end the 1950-1953 Korean War.

China has said it welcomes efforts to defuse the nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula and is keen to be a part of the solution.

"China will play a role in establishing peace on the Korean peninsula," Kyodo quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying as saying at a press conference in Beijing yesterday, indicating the Chinese government's readiness to work to replace the Korean War armistice with a peace treaty.

In their talks, Mr Kim and Mr Moon agreed their governments would "actively pursue" trilateral meetings involving the two Koreas and the United States, or quadrilateral meetings involving China.

"China is guarding the peace and security of the Korean peninsula all the time... The temporary truce system should be replaced with a permanent peace regime on the Korean peninsula," Ms Hua said.

Experts say China is now likely eager to avoid being marginalised in the wave of diplomacy that led to last Friday's summit, AFP said.

The North Korean leader has also invited Mr Xi to visit Pyongyang, but no date has been set.

Mr Wang, who is visiting North Korea at the request of Mr Ri, might meet Mr Kim, Kyodo said, quoting sources.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 03, 2018, with the headline 'Chinese Foreign Minister visits N. Korea for first time since 2007'. Print Edition | Subscribe