Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin began a four-day visit to North Korea on Monday, an official said, days after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry asked China to exert more pressure on the North to get it to give up its nuclear program.
Liu and North Korean officials "will exchange views on China-DPRK (North Korea) relations, regional situations as well as other issues of common interest," China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters.
The visit by Liu to North Korea came "at the invitation of the DPRK's foreign ministry," Hua said, describing the trip as a "routine exchange."
"During his visit, Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin will hold diplomatic consultations with officials from the DPRK's foreign ministry. He will also meet with officials from other relevant DPRK departments," Hua said.
Last Friday, Kerry held talks in Beijing with Chinese leaders, including President Xi Jinping, and told reporters that he "encouraged the Chinese to use every tool" to realize the goal of denuclearizing North Korea.
Asked whether he won a specific commitment from the Chinese side to get North Korea to give up its nuclear ambition, Kerry replied, "They made it very clear that if the North doesn't comply and come to the table and be serious about talks and stop its program ... they are prepared to take additional steps in order to make sure that their policy is implemented."
Earlier this month, a group of Chinese diplomats in charge of Korean affairs visited North Korea, marking the first visit by Chinese officials since the high-profile purge of leader Kim Jong-un's uncle about two months ago.
It has signaled that Beijing and Pyongyang have resumed their regular diplomatic exchanges since the Dec. 13 execution of Jang Song-thaek, the once-powerful uncle of Kim.
Jang's dramatic downfall marked the biggest political upheaval since late 2011, when the North's young leader Kim took power following former leader and his father's death.
China, North Korea's key ally and economic lifeline, has been in a delicate position because Jang was considered a supporter of China-style reforms to revive the North's moribund economy and played an important role in dealing with economic projects with Beijing. (Yonhap)