China's number two leader arrived in North Korea Wednesday amid continuing efforts to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis. The leader of China's parliament, Wu Bangguo is in Pyongyang, heading a state delegation. Chinese government spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue says the group visiting Pyongyang includes a number of high-level political and military officials.
Mr. Wu is the most senior Chinese official to visit North Korea in more than two years. Although the Chinese government is calling it simply a goodwill visit, analysts say the delegation is expected to push Pyongyang to attend another round of six-way talks aimed at ending the North Korean nuclear crisis.
China brokered an earlier round of talks that brought together officials from China, Japan, North and South Korea, Russia, and the United States. That meeting, held in Beijing in August, ended with no breakthrough. All sides agreed to meet at a future date, but no timeline was set. South Korean officials this week said they hope the talks will resume by mid-December.
Since the conclusion of the August talks, North Korea has repeatedly threatened to continue developing its nuclear weapons program. Pyongyang recently dismissed a proposal by President Bush, who offered multinational security guarantees if the North dismantles its nuclear program.
North Korean officials called the offer laughable and said they will settle for no less than a formal non-aggression treaty in which the United States would promise not to attack their country. The United States has ruled out signing such an agreement unless North Korea dismantles its nuclear program immediately and in a verifiable manner.
China is North Korea's closest ally and North Korea's chief supplier of food and fuel. Analysts say Beijing thus remains in the best position to influence North Korea.