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North Korean Envoy Meets With Chinese Official in Beijing

Choe Ryong-Hae, left, director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People's Army (KPA) of North Korea, shakes hands with Chinese official upon arrival at the airport, Beijing, May 22, 2013.
A senior North Korean military official sent to China as a special envoy has met with a top Chinese official, at a time of strained relations between the two traditional allies.

Choe Ryong Hae, director of the General Political Bureau of the North Korean army, held talks in Beijing Wednesday with Wang Jiarui, head of the International Department of China's Communist Party.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the two men planned to exchange views on the situation on the Korean peninsula and issues of mutual concern. He gave no other details on the meeting.

"I'd like to point out that China is always committed to maintaining the peace and stability on the Korean peninsula, committed to realizing the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, committed to using dialogue and consultation to solve relevant issues," he said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sent Choe Ryong Hae and a government delegation to China on Wednesday.

Choe is one of the highest-ranking North Korean party officials to visit China since Kim took over leadership of the country after the death of his father in late 2011.

China has long been North Korea's primary ally and economic lifeline, but there have been signs the new leadership in Beijing is growing impatient with the North because of its nuclear ambitions.

Some analysts say the North Korean trip to China may be an attempt to mend bilateral relations.

The state-run Bank of China recently halted business with North Korea's main foreign exchange bank. The move, welcomed in Washington, was seen by many as a sign China is willing to comply more rigidly with U.N. sanctions imposed against the North's nuclear program.

China-North Korea ties also were challenged this month when unidentified North Koreans seized 16 Chinese fishermen and demanded a ransom. China has demanded an investigation into the incident. The fishermen were released safely on Tuesday.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.