Chinese envoy’s visit to North Korea raises hope for dialogue By Jun Ji-hye 

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A Chinese special envoy’s visit to North Korea is 

raising cautious hopes
for resumption of dialogue on the North’s nuclear

 and missile issues.

A Chinese special envoy’s visit to North Korea is raising cautious hopes for resumption
of dialogue on the North’s nuclear and missile issues.

Chinese diplomats including Song Tao, the special envoy of Chinese President Xi Jinping, arrived in Pyongyang Friday to inform the North of the outcome of the recent 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), according to the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Saturday. Xi entered his second five-year term at the congress held last month.

It marked the first visit by the Chinese special envoy to the repressive state in one year and nine
months amid strained Pyongyang-Beijing relations due to the North’s repeated military
provocations and China’s participation in international sanctions against Pyongyang.

Song’s visit came only about a week after Xi and U.S. President Donald Trump held a summit
in Beijing, during which time the latter pressed the former to take more action to rein
in North Korea.

President Trump expressed his expectations for China’s dispatch of its envoy to Pyongyang,
tweeting: “A big move, we’ll see what happens!”

Song, the head of the International Liaison Department of the Central Committee of the CPC,
is expected to have delivered the results of the U.S. -China summit and views of the outside
world on the North’s nuclear program to North Korean officials.

It is unknown whether Song met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during the visit.

On Friday, Song briefed Choe Ryong-hae, the vice chairman of the Central Committee
of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, on the details of the CPC congress, according to the KCNA.

“He stressed the CPC’s stand to steadily develop the traditional friendly relations between the two parties and countries,” the KCNA said.

The North Korean state news agency also said Song conveyed a gift for the North’s young
leader through Choe, without elaborating.

The KCNA added that Song had talks with Ri Su-yong,
vice chairman of the Central

Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, Saturday,
and exchanged views about the
situation on the peninsula and in Northeast Asia.

It is not clear how long Song will stay in the North, but diplomatic sources said
he may stay there for about four days.

The North has stopped its military provocations since the last one on Sept.
15 when it launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan.

The suspension of the provocations for more than 60 days has raised
cautious optimism about a possible change in the North’s attitude, but experts say
it would be premature to expect great changes.

Park Hwee-rhak, dean of the Graduate School of Politics and Leadership at Kookmin
University, said the North seems to have suspended its provocations due to technical
problems in developing an operational intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM),
so it may not be a sign of its move toward dialogue.

“The Chinese envoy could make some offers to the North, but it would be difficult
for Pyongyang to change that soon,” Park said during his cable TV appearance.

Considering Beijing is worried about enhanced cooperation between Seoul,
Washington and Tokyo, Park also noted China may deliver a message to the North
that the only option left for the North is denuclearization.

“In addition to this, if South Korea and the United States make various offers,
it may change the North little by little,” he said.

China’s Global Times also warned against high expectations on the visit,
saying, “Song is not a magician.”

“The key to easing the situation on the peninsula lies in the hands of Washington
and Pyongyang,” the newspaper said in an editorial. “If both sides insist on their
own logic and refuse to move in the same direction, even if Song opens the door
for talks, the door could be closed anytime.”