A senior North Korean official left Beijing for Laos on Wednesday amid speculation about the possibility of secret contact with the United States.
Ri Su-yong, who is in charge of international affairs at the North's ruling Workers' Party, arrived in Beijing Tuesday morning for a layover on his way to Laos. Later that day, Pyongyang's state media, Korean Central News Agency, reported Ri's trip to the Southeast Asian country in a one-paragraph dispatch, without elaborating on its purpose.
Ri is known to have stayed at the North Korean Embassy in Beijing until he took a 5:55 a.m. flight at Beijing Capital International Airport to head for Laos. He was seen accompanied by several North Korean officials at the airport.
He is expected to arrive in Laos at 2:50 p.m. and to stop over in Beijing again on his way home after remaining in Laos until Sunday.
Diplomatic sources here said that while in Beijing, Ri might have made contact with top US nuclear envoy Stephen Biegun, who was also in Beijing, reportedly for consultations with Chinese officials, the previous day.
But others said any chance of contact was low, as Biegun's North Korean counterpart is Kim Hyok-chol.
Washington is trying to keep up dialogue with Pyongyang alive despite the collapse of the summit between Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump in late February. (Yonhap)