China promoted Zhang Zhijun, who traveled to North Korea at least five times this year, to the second-most important post in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Zhang, 57, was named Party Secretary at the ministry, making him the senior vice minister. He replaces Wang Guangya, who transferred to head the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, according to a statement from the Work Committee for Central Government Organs on Dec. 21.
The appointment comes as China faces pressure from the U.S., Japan, and South Korea to push King Jong Il’s regime to change its behavior after the North’s Nov. 23 deadly shelling of a South Korean island in disputed waters. Zhang last week said China was “deeply concerned” at the “extremely precarious” situation on the peninsula, Xinhua News Agency reported.
Zhang accompanied State Councilor Dai Bingguo on a visit to Pyongyang earlier this month for talks with Kim, state-run Korean Central News Agency reported on Dec. 9. A week earlier he was also in North Korea with a parliamentary delegation.
Prior to his appointment as vice minister in the Foreign Ministry in 2009, Zhang was vice minister at the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China from 2000 to 2009. Under China’s Party-driven political system, the International Department handles relations with the Workers Party of Korea.
Ties between the two parties date back to the struggle to oust colonial power Japan from northeast China and Korea before World War II. The alliance deepened during the 1950-1953 Korean War, when China fought alongside North Korea against the South and U.S.-led United Nations forces.
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