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North Korean sends top diplomat to key ally China

AP  |  Beijing 

North Korea's was due to arrive in key ally Thursday for talks that come amid stalled efforts to persuade to dismantle its nuclear weapons programs.

Ri was scheduled to meet Friday with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, according to

is the North's most important economic and political partner, but has signed on to economic sanctions aimed at pressuring leader Un to abandon his drive to develop nuclear weapons and the ballistic missiles to deliver them.

Kim sharply raised tensions with nuclear and missile tests last year, but suddenly reached out to and the this year with a vague nuclear disarmament pledge.

is now seeking security guarantees from the US and relief from international sanctions.

Ri is also expected to be briefed on discussions last week between Chinese and Donald Trump, who recently announced that his next meeting with Kim would likely happen in January or February.

Despite the optimism among some circles generated by Kim and Trump's June summit meeting in Singapore, little has transpired since then.

At the time, some experts said the could soon accept a North Korean request for jointly declaring the end of the 1950-53 Korean War as part of security assurances to the North.

But diplomacy has since come to a halt amid disputes over a US demand that first produce a full inventory of its nuclear weapons and take other denuclearisation steps before winning significant outside rewards.

For its part, wants sanctions relief, an end-of-war declaration and other reciprocal measures from the United States, arguing it has taken some steps, like dismantling its nuclear testing facility and releasing American detainees.

fought on North Korea's behalf during the Korean War, and while ties have grown frosty at times, Xi hosted Kim for three summits in China this year, both before and after Kim's meeting with Trump.

However, Xi did not attend celebrations of in what was seen as an indication that expected further actions from Kim, including concrete progress toward denuclearisation.

Ri's visit also comes amid intense speculation over the possibility that Kim will visit this month.

No North Korean leader has travelled to since the end of the Korean War, which killed millions.

There have been five summit talks between the leaders of the Koreas, three of them between Kim and South Korean Moon Jae-in, but they all happened either in or the inter-Korean border village of

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, December 06 2018. 13:50 IST