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China's Xi Jinping meets with North Korean envoy

Ri Su Yong delivered a personal letter from Kim Jong Un.

By Elizabeth Shim
China's Xi Jinping meets with North Korean envoy
Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to meet with North Korean envoy Ri Su Yong on Wednesday, despite Pyongyang’s commitment to pursue nuclear weapons development. File Photo by Andrew Harrer/Pool | License Photo

SEOUL, June 1 (UPI) -- Xi Jinping met with North Korea's vice party chairman Ri Su Yong on Wednesday, the first time in three years the Chinese president has met with a high-level Pyongyang official.

During the meeting, Xi stressed the importance of "calm and restraint, regional peace and stability," according to Chinese state news agency Xinhua.

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But the meeting comes at a time when relations between Beijing and Pyongyang are uneasy and occurred on the same day South Korean news network MBN reported Chinese authorities are on alert after an armed North Korean soldier crossed the border illegally.

In Beijing, Ri delivered a personal letter from Kim Jong Un expressing the North Korean leader's wish to "strengthen" relations, Yonhap reported.

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It's unclear, however, how China is to cope with North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

Pyongyang's state-controlled news agency KCNA said Ri told Chinese officials that North Korea was sticking to a "permanent" policy of nuclear weapons development, The New York Times reported.

Xi has repeatedly said China is fully committed to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, and Pyongyang's weapons tests continue to irritate Beijing.

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Provocations, however, have not stopped Xi from agreeing to meet with Ri, or pursuing dialogue to engage the North.

"China highly values friendly cooperation between North Korea and China," Xi said. "Through efforts with North Korea, we hope to protect and cultivate relations."

But differences remain between the two countries, and China's border authorities have become increasingly concerned after episodes of kidnappings and homicides have grown in Chinese provinces facing North Korea.

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Authorities in the Chinese province of Jilin issued a region-wide text message to local residents on Monday after they received notice an armed North Korean soldier was roaming the area.

The message advised residents to avoid going out after dark.

In 2015, North Korean soldiers killed three Chinese nationals in the Chinese town of Helong. North Korean soldiers also killed four ethnic Korean-Chinese in 2014 while looking for food, according to local authorities.

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