BEIJING, (Reuters) – Senior Chinese diplomat Song Tao will lead a Chinese art troupe to North Korea, Chinese state media said yesterday, in a further sign of improving ties after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s visited Beijing last month.
The delegation led by Mr Song, the head of the Communist Party’s International Department, will leave for North Korea on Friday for an April Spring Friendship Art Festival, the official Xinhua news agency said without providing other details.
The North’s official Korea Central News Agency said the visit by the art troupe would strengthen friendly bilateral relations “onto a new high stage” following Mr Kim’s “first historic visit to China”.
“The Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea will warmly welcome the artists of the friendly neighbouring country and specially greet them,” it said.
Song last visited the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, in November to discuss the outcome of China’s 19th Party Congress.
For years China was North Korea’s sole major ally but their relations had become strained over the past couple of years over the North’s relentless testing of ballistic missiles and nuclear devices.
China has sought to remain front and centre in diplomatic efforts over North Korea, and has long pushed for a resumption of talks to get it to give up its nuclear weapons, but until Kim’s recent Beijing visit, there had been few high-level contacts between the two countries for some time.
Mr Kim’s visit to Beijing was his first known trip outside North Korea since he assumed power in 2011 and is believed by analysts to serve as preparation for upcoming summits with South Korea and the US.
US President Donald Trump said on Monday he planned to meet Kim next month or in early June and hoped the discussions would ultimately lead to an end of the North’s nuclear weapons programme.