SEOUL, June 3 (UPI) -- The Chinese government reportedly instructed local media to refrain from criticism of North Korea during a top envoy's visit to Beijing, according to a Japanese newspaper.
The Sankei Shimbun reported on Friday that the order was from the Chinese Communist Party's publicity department, and the instructions were delivered verbally.
The central government also directed news organizations to not sensationalize the issue of North Korea's nuclear weapons development, and highlight instead the friendship between China and North Korea during the visit.
Relations between Beijing and Pyongyang have deteriorated since North Korea conducted a nuclear test in January and a satellite launch in February.
But Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to meet with North Korea's vice party chairman Ri Su Yong on Wednesday, despite Pyongyang's refusal to pursue denuclearization. State-run network CCTV broadcast the event, including a scene where Xi shook hands with Ri.
Despite disagreements, China has shown interest in reengaging North Korea. Xi sent Kim a congratulatory note after Pyongyang's Seventh Party Congress, and the Chinese leader agreed to closer cooperation with North Korea during the meeting with Ri.
Ken Gause, an analyst at the Center for Naval Analyses in Alexandria, Va., said the meeting was held so Beijing could restore relations and perhaps resume negotiations on the nuclear issue.
Gause told Radio Free Asia that China is seeking to recover some of the influence it once had over North Korea when former leader Kim Jong Il was in power.
China has been seeking a channel of communication with the North, which had closed after the execution of Kim Jong Un's uncle-in-law Jang Sung Taek, the analyst said.