Chinese Vice President Li to visit North Korea

July 24, 2013 at 1:43 PM

BEIJING, July 24 (UPI) -- China's Foreign Ministry announced Wednesday Vice President Li Yuanchao will visit North Korea amid strained relations between the two countries.

Li will lead a delegation Thursday to Pyongyang to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War, China's official Xinhua news agency.

Li will be the highest-ranking official from China to visit since Kim Jong-un became North Korea's leader.

The visit comes as relations between the two countries are strained in the wake of North Korea's nuclear test in February, the BBC said. North Korea later threatened attacks on South Korean, Japanese and U.S. military targets in the region, angering China, North Korea's biggest trading partner and a country that has prioritized the maintenance of stability in North Korea.

Ties between China and North Korea appeared to chill after Beijing backed United Nations sanctions against North Korea, and state media openly debated the merits of maintain good ties with Pyongyang, the BBC added.

Li, who will visit North Korea through July 28, is a member of the Chinese politburo but not a part of the politburo's powerful standing committee.

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