BEIJING: China will send a special envoy to North Korea this week, state media said Wednesday (Nov 15), after US President Donald Trump concluded an Asian tour to rally support against Pyongyang's nuclear threats.
President Xi Jinping's special envoy, Song Tao, will head to North Korea on Friday to discuss the Chinese Communist Party's congress, which took place last month, Xinhua news agency said, without providing more details.
The announcement came a day after the end of Trump's five-nation tour of Asia, during which the US leader held meetings with Xi and urged him to act fast to rein in North Korea, warning that "time is quickly running out".
Trump has urged the region to take a united front against the threat posed by isolated North Korea, which has sparked global alarm with its nuclear and missile tests in recent months.
As tensions have surged China has backed a series of United Nations sanctions on Pyongyang and imposed banking restrictions on North Koreans, putting the Cold War-era allies at odds.
Washington has urged China to intensify use of its economic leverage over North Korea to strongarm Pyongyang into halting its nuclear weapons and missile programmes.
'UPPING THE SANCTIONS'
US officials want Chinese authorities to clamp down on unauthorised trade that they say is still trickling across the North Korean border.
"China can fix this problem easily and quickly, and I am calling on China and your great president to hopefully work on it very hard," Trump said alongside Xi last Thursday.
For his part, Xi repeated his plea for the issue to be resolved through negotiations, saying China was ready to discuss the "pathway leading to enduring peace and stability on the peninsula".
Xi has never met North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. The last Chinese official trip there was in October 2016, when vice foreign minister Liu Zhenmin visited.
On Sunday, Trump said Xi stated that "he is upping the sanctions against" North Korea, but he did not provide details and China has not announced any new punitive measures.
Beijing fears pressuring Kim's regime into collapse, triggering a flood of refugees across its border and eliminating a strategic buffer separating China from the US military in South Korea.
It has condemned the North's missile tests, but hopes to resolve the nuclear crisis through diplomatic means, pleading for a resumption of long-dormant six-nation talks.
China and Russia have campaigned for a "dual track" approach in which the United States would halt its military drills in the region in return for North Korea suspending its weapons programmes, but the proposal has not gained traction.