North Korea sends envoy to ally China

North Korea sends envoy to ally China

North Korea sends envoy to ally China

South Korean President Park (C) salutes during a ceremony to celebrate the deployment of Surion helicopters at the Army Aviation School in Nonsan. REUTERS photo

A top official and confidante of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met yesterday a senior Chinese official in Beijing, at a time of strained relations and ahead of a China-U.S. summit as Japan is considering direct talks with North Korea, the government said.

Choe Ryong-Hae, director of the Korean People’s Army politburo, flew to Beijing with a handful of senior military and ruling party officials, the Korean Central News Agency said, highlighting his role “as a special envoy” of the North’s young leader. Choe met Wang Jiarui, head of the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s International Department, the official news agency Xinhua said, without giving further details.

Choe is believed to be the highest ranking North Korean party official to visit China, since late leader Kim Jong-Il in August 2011.

Meanwhile, bilateral talks are on the table as Tokyo seeks to salve the running sore of abductions of its nationals by North Korean spies in the 1970s and 1980s, an issue that inflames public opinion at home.

But any move to break with Washington and Seoul, who have both stressed the need for a united approach to Pyongyang, could rankle.

“As we are seeking all possibilities, of course such a thing is an option,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters when asked about resuming talks suspended last year when North Korean announced a rocket launch.