Beijing, May 31 (IANS) A senior North Korean official arrived in Beijing on Tuesday in a surprise visit that comes just hours after Pyongyang unsuccessfully attempted to launch a medium-range ballistic missile from its eastern coast.
The North Korean vice chairman of the Worker’s Party and former foreign minister Ri Su-yong was seen in the Chinese capital, according to Chinese and South Korean media, which speculated that the visit of the top official was an attempt to thaw a recent frost in bilateral relations.
Though China has been a staunch supporter and key ally of North Korea over the past decades, the ongoing nuclear programme under the leadership of Kim Jong-un is reputed to have stressed the relationship, Efe news reported.
According to the US Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) headquartered in New York, Beijing’s sentiments towards North Korea have become increasingly abrasive since successive nuclear tests in the early millennium, culminating in underground nuclear testing and a satellite launch in January and February, respectively, sparking fresh sanctions from the UN Security Council.
Ri, has defended the nuclear programme saying the South Korean military alliance with the US was such that “Pyongyang had no choice but to respond with nuclear weapons”.
It is North Korea’s first high-level visit to China since its fourth nuclear detonation on January 4, which has been described as a wake-up call for the UN and international community to take steps to reign in the secretive one-party state.