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S. Korea hopes top Chinese official's visit to N.K. will help ease tension

2015/10/05 11:27

SEOUL, Oct. 5 (Yonhap) -- The Unification Ministry voiced hope Monday that a planned visit by a ranking Chinese official to North Korea this week could help ease tension on the Korean Peninsula as the North threatens to conduct a missile or nuclear test.

North Korea said Sunday that a Chinese delegation to be led by Liu Yunshan, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China, will attend the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Workers' Party of Korea, which falls this Saturday.

"The government hopes that this round of exchanges between China and North Korea will contribute to easing heightened tension on the peninsula and maintaining stability," Jeong Joon-hee, ministry spokesman, told a regular press briefing.

He also expressed hope that the move could help make progress toward efforts to denuclearize North Korea, and bring peace and stability to Northeast Asia.

It will mark the first time that a Chinese member of the standing committee of the communist party will visit Pyongyang under the regime of the North's leader Kim Jong-un.

"Exchanges of high-level officials between North Korea and China are meaningful," Jeong said without elaborating.

Relations between China and North Korea have been sharply strained since the North's nuclear test in early 2013.

The hard-won conciliatory mood on the peninsula recently flared up amid speculation that North Korea would launch a long-range rocket or conduct a fourth nuclear test around its anniversary.

The North said it has the right to launch satellites for peaceful purposes, but South Korea and the United States viewed it as a cover for a ballistic missile test.

China, the North's only treaty ally, has also expressed its opposition to North Korea's possible provocations.

President Park Geun-hye and her Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, jointly "voiced opposition to any act that could escalate tensions" at a summit in early September.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr

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