China’s chief representative to the six-party talks made a surprise visit to North Korea on Tuesday. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo
SEOUL, Feb. 2 (UPI) -- China's chief representative to the six-party talks made a surprise visit to North Korea on Tuesday, raising speculation Beijing is taking a firmer approach to Pyongyang's recent nuclear provocations.
Wu Dawei, China's special representative for Korean Peninsula Affairs, is the first high-ranking Beijing envoy to visit Pyongyang since Jan. 6, when North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test, Yonhap reported.
The Chinese diplomat flew to Pyongyang and arrived Tuesday afternoon, local time, Kyodo News reported. Pak Song Il, deputy director of the America department at the North Korean Foreign Ministry, greeted him at Pyongyang's Sunan International Airport upon his arrival.
Both North Korea state media and Chinese officials in Beijing confirmed the visit. A spokesman at China's Foreign Ministry told Yonhap that "Representative Wu is staying in Pyongyang," and that he is expected to "exchange views on the current situation with North Korea."
The visit marks Wu's first trip to Pyongyang in nearly two years, and the envoy is expected to meet with Kim Gye Kwan, first vice foreign minister, Ri Yong Ho, North Korea's chief representative to the six-party talks on denuclearization and other senior North Korean officials.
The visit comes a week after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Beijing to persuade China to support more powerful and comprehensive sanctions against Pyongyang.
The United States has suggested Beijing restrict China-North Korea trade and cut supplies of coal and crude oil as part of proposed sanctions.
China, however, has been treading lightly on sanctions that could further isolate North Korea and has said dialogue and consultation with the North should be given higher priority.
In Pyongyang, Wu is likely to present the outcome of U.S.-China discussions with North Korea officials.