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(2nd LD) N. Korea's vice economy minister visits China

All Headlines 13:52 July 02, 2018

(ATTN: UPDATES with diplomatic sources' comments in paras 3-6)

BEIJING, July 2 (Yonhap) -- A top North Korean official handling economic policy began a trip to China on Monday amid indications that the neighboring countries are seeking to expand bilateral economic cooperation.

Ku Bon-tae, vice minister of external economic affairs, arrived here on an Air Koryo plane and was soon whisked away in a Chinese vehicle. A North Korean embassy car followed it.

He's expected to meet Chinese officials to discuss bilateral economic partnerships, especially in the agriculture, railway and electricity sectors, and development assistance.

"The trip by the vice minister of external economic affairs, not an official from the foreign ministry, is a show of the will of North Korea and China to seek economic cooperation in earnest," a diplomatic source here said.

Another source, however, was cautious about the scope of joint economic projects, if any, citing the U.N.-led sanctions on Pyongyang.

"The U.N. Security Council's sanctions resolutions are still valid, and there's no change in China's position that it will do its basic duty. So the lifting of sanctions is unthinkable (for now)," the source said. "(Ku's visit) is rather part of exchanges and communication between North Kore and China just like the (ongoing) inter-Korean exchanges."

This image depicts economic cooperation between North Korea and China. (Yonhap)

Ku's visit comes less than two weeks after the North's leader Kim Jong-un traveled to the Chinese capital.

During his two-day stay in Beijing last month, Kim had his third known summit with President Xi Jinping and toured the Sci-tech Innovation Institute under the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences and a Beijing city subway system control center.

Ku attended the opening ceremony of the Shanghai World Expo in 2010 and also led Pyongyang's delegation to a Northeast Asian trade fair held in the Chinese province of Jilin, close to the border with the North, in the same year.

He was also present at a meeting between the North's Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Pyongyang in May.

lcd@yna.co.kr
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