China Sends Nuclear Envoy to North Korea as U.S. Seeks Sanctions

  • Trip comes amid concerns isolated nation may launch missile
  • Chinese negotiator met with American counterpart last week

A senior Chinese negotiator traveled to North Korea, his first trip to Pyongyang since the isolated nation conducted its fourth nuclear test almost a month ago and prompted the U.S. to seek tougher sanctions.

Wu Dawei, China’s special envoy for Korean peninsula affairs, arrived with a delegation on Tuesday, North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said, without giving further details. His trip comes amid concerns the regime may be preparing to launch a long-range missile in a follow up to its Jan. 6 nuclear test.

North Korea is banned from both nuclear and ballistic missile testing under United Nations Security Council resolutions. China is a permanent council member, as is the U.S. While in Beijing last week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry failed to secure China’s support for tougher sanctions against North Korea, with the countries agreeing only to pursue a new Security Council resolution.

Wu is the highest-ranking Chinese official to visit Pyongyang since Liu Yunshan, a member of China’s Politburo Standing Committee, joined North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in October to watch a military parade. Wu met with U.S. counterpart Sung Kim last week, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Monday at a briefing.

China supplies most of North Korea’s food and energy imports. But its influence is constrained by its concerns that a destabilized regime would lead to chaos on the border and raise the chance of U.S. military intervention on the peninsula.

North Korea said last month it wasn’t interested in aggravating tensions and that it would suspend nuclear testing if the U.S. stopped joint military drills with South Korea, a proposal quickly dismissed by U.S. officials.

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