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China's North Korea envoy not groundbreaking, Seoul says

By Elizabeth Shim
China's North Korea envoy not groundbreaking, Seoul says
Chinese President Xi Jinping (2-R) has agreed to send a special envoy to North Korea, but no major developments are expected, Seoul said Friday. Photo by Xie Huanchi/Xinhua/EPA-EFE

Nov. 17 (UPI) -- China's decision to send a special envoy to North Korea follows a tradition between the two countries, and does not signal a major shift in policy, South Korea's unification ministry said Friday.

South Korean spokeswoman Lee Yu-jin told reporters Beijing's Song Tao, head of the International Liaison Department of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, is to visit North Korea on Sunday, but there is precedent for such visits, local news service EDaily reported.

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"China is following precedent by dispatching a special envoy who is to explain the results of China's party congress, a major event that takes place every five years," Lee said.

China has previously sent Chinese politician Liu Yunshan to Pyongyang in 2007, following the 17th Party Congress, and again in 2012, around the time of the 18th Party Congress.

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The spokeswoman added Song is to also visit Vietnam and Laos for similar reasons.

Seoul also said there is "no significant difference" in the rank of the senior Chinese official being sent to liaise with the Kim Jong Un regime, compared to previous diplomatic envoys.

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"We will keep an eye on developments," Lee said, adding it would be too premature to forecast the direction of China-North Korea relations.

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Ahead of the Chinese visit, North Korea issued a statement, confirming it has no interest in denuclearization.

Korean Workers' Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun stated Friday North Korea will continue to "strengthen the nuclear arsenal" as long as the United States continues its "hostile policy" against the regime.

The Rodong stated the United States should "abandon its foolish ambition" and condemned Washington for increasing sanctions on the country.

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"This is a cunning tactic to lay blame on us," North Korea said.

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