The Chinese Vice Foreign Minister visits North Korea in the latest diplomacy between the two countries

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea announced Friday that it is hosting a visit by a Chinese government delegation led by Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong, as it continues its efforts to strengthen relations with Beijing and Moscow in the face of escalating confrontations with Washington. .

North's official Korean Central News Agency said that Son's delegation arrived in the capital, Pyongyang, on Thursday after crossing the land border between the two countries. The report did not provide further details about the visit.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is trying to advance the vision of his partnership with China and Russia as he attempts to emerge from diplomatic isolation and strengthen his regional standing by joining a united front against the United States.

Kim traveled to Russia's far east in September to hold a rare summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and some experts say he is also likely to seek a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

While Kim has prioritized his ties with Russia, which has raised concerns about arms cooperation that would help fuel Putin's war on Ukraine, the North Korean leader has also invited senior Chinese officials to major official events in recent months, while vowing to strengthen bilateral ties. .

A Chinese delegation led by Vice Premier Liu Guozhong attended celebrations marking the 75th anniversary of North Korea's founding last September, shortly before Kim's visit to Russia. In July, Kim invited Chinese ruling party official Li Hongzhong and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to a major military parade in Pyongyang, where he launched his most powerful, potentially nuclear-capable missiles targeting the United States, South Korea and Japan.

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Son met with North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Pak Myung-ho last month in Beijing, where they discussed strengthening bilateral relations and coordination on unspecified “issues of common concern.” Pak then also met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, where they pledged to expand friendly exchanges and strengthen “strategic cooperation” in 2024, as the two countries celebrate the 75th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral relations.

Son's visit to North Korea comes as US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan plans to hold talks with Wang in Bangkok this week in the latest high-level talks between Washington and Beijing amid tensions over trade, technology and China's assertive foreign policy in the region.

As North Korea's main ally and economic lifeline, China is a crucial partner in Kim's efforts to revive an economy crippled by decades of mismanagement and U.S.-led sanctions over his nuclear weapons and missile program, which he has aggressively expanded in recent years despite limited resources. .

Both China and Russia, as permanent members of the UN Security Council, have thwarted US-led efforts to increase sanctions on North Korea over its extensive weapons testing activity in recent months, highlighting deep division over Russia's war on Ukraine.

Washington and Seoul are urging Beijing to use its economic influence over North Korea to help persuade Kim's government to return to denuclearization negotiations, which have been stalled since 2019.

Experts say trade activities between North Korea and China have been gradually expanding since North Korea eased its pandemic restrictions and reopened the border last year.

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