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(LEAD) Top N. Korean official in Beijing in bid to normalize ties

All News 17:19 June 01, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES with Ri's motorcade heading to the Great Hall of the People in first 3 paras; TRIMS)
By Kim Deok-hyun

BEIJING, June 1 (Yonhap) -- A motorcade of about 10 black sedans, led by a top North Korean official Ri Su-yong, headed to the Great Hall of the People on Wednesday for a possible meeting with senior Chinese leaders.

The motorcade was seen leaving the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse on Wednesday afternoon amid tight security, with diplomatic sources here saying Ri may meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

A vice chairman of the North Korean ruling party's central committee and the party's chief of international relations, Ri arrived in Beijing on Tuesday for a three-day visit, in an apparent bid to normalize political ties that remain soured over the North's nuclear weapons ambitions.

He held talks with Song Tao, minister of the International Department of the Chinese Communist Party, on Tuesday evening and both sides voiced hope to boost cooperation.

In a brief statement on the Tuesday talks, the Chinese Communist Party stopped short of saying that Ri and Song discussed North Korea's nuclear program.

However, North Korea's official media reported on Wednesday that Ri told Song that the North will not give up its policy of simultaneously pursuing both economic development and nuclear development.

The remarks by Ri about North Korea's nuclear policy indicated that Pyongyang and Beijing are still far apart over how to deal with the North's nuclear program, a diplomatic source in Beijing said on the condition of anonymity.

"The Chinese side wants to manage North Korea, and North Korea wants to escape from the current diplomatic isolation," the source said.

"But it will be difficult for North Korea and China to improve ties unless the North changes its course on its nuclear program," the source said.

North Korea was hit by tougher U.N. sanctions in March following its fourth nuclear test in January and launch of a long-range rocket in February.


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