Acting as special envoy for Xi Jinping, senior Chinese diplomat Song Tao will arrive in North Korea today.
The visit is the first by a high-ranking Chinese official in two years, coming at a time when Beijing’s relationship with the Hermit Kingdom continues to be tested by the ongoing nuclear crisis.
Beijing has been quick to separate today’s meeting from overtures made by Donald Trump that Xi do more to pressure North Korea into denuclearising, instead framing the visit as an exchange between China’s Communist Party and North Korea’s Workers’ Party.
Kim has systematically purged pro-Beijing factions from the political elite, significantly curtailing China’s ability to leverage decision making from within. Kim’s uncle, Jang Song-Thaek, tops a list of 340 people executed since the young despot’s rise to power in 2011.
While officially on party business, reports suggest that Tao’s visit is indicative of a new high-level approach for engagement with Kim Jong-Un. Tao has an opportunity to measure Pyongyang’s willingness to compromise on the nuclear issue and bring them to the negotiating table—with or without the US.
Delve deeper: The growing rift between China and North Korea
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