BEIJING, July 24 (UPI) -- The Chinese government said Wednesday the vice president is headed to North Korea to take part in ceremonies marking a halt to the Korean War.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Vice President Li Yuanchao will lead a delegation Thursday to Pyongyang to take part in commemorations for the 60th anniversary of the armistice agreement, China's official Xinhua News Agency reports.
China fought on the side of the north during the Korean conflict in the 1950s. The two Koreas technically remain at war. North Korea this year stepped back from the armistice agreement amid growing tensions with its adversaries in Seoul.
North Korea's test of a nuclear device in February sparked concerns about security on the Korean Peninsula. U.S. and Chinese officials vowed to work together to address the issue during recent bilateral meetings in Washington.
South Korea's Yonhap News Agency said large-scale military parades are planned in North Korea to mark the anniversary of the armistice agreement Saturday.
Yonhap, citing anonymous sources, reports "several" incidents of North Korean soldiers deserting because of chronic food shortages.
"Provincial regions except Pyongyang have been suffering a worsening food shortage this year," a senior government source said.