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Official: China Looks to Improved Ties with North Korea

FILE - North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (l) gives field guidance at the Wonsan Shoe Factory in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang, Nov. 27, 2015.

China’s improved ties with North Korea would help resolve a diplomatic deadlock over Pyongyang’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, Hua Chunying, spokeswoman for China’s Foreign Ministry, was quoted as saying by South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.

“Improved relations between China and North Korea are helpful to resolving the nuclear issue and resuming the Six-Party Talks,” Hua said in reference to the nuclear talks aimed at denuclearizing the Korean peninsula. The international talks have been stalled since late 2008. Hua made the comments during a meeting with South Korean reporters on Monday.

Hua said Beijing will try to mend ties with Pyongyang.

“China will continue efforts for the normal and stable development of relations with North Korea,” the spokeswoman said.

Shin Sang-jin, a professor at Kwangwoon University who specializes in China-North Korea relations, said Hua’s comments may reflect China’s attempt to create the mood for the North Korean leader’s visit to Beijing.

“There have been no summit talks between the two sides since Kim Jong Un took power and it is not a favorable scenario for China with respect to Beijing’s Northeast Asia Policy,” said Shin.

Shin warned Beijing could take an approach that is different from Washington’s position in its effort to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue.

Park Byung-kwang, a researcher at the Institute for National Security Strategy, South Korea’s state-run research institute, said Chinese President Xi Jinping will try to strike a balance in China’s relations with the two Koreas by mending ties with Pyongyang.

An analyst in Seoul who asked to remain anonymous said it is possible that Kim might travel to Beijing ahead of Pyongyang’s ruling party convention slated for next May.

Relations between Beijing and Pyongyang have cooled since Kim Jong Un took power in late 2011. The two sides have been at odds over Pyongyang’s nuclear stance. Tensions have risen between China and North Korea after Pyongyang conducted its third nuclear test in February 2013, despite objections from Beijing.

Later, relations deteriorated after Kim ordered the high-profile execution of Jang Song Thaek, Kim’s uncle who had close ties to Beijing. In October, China sent a senior official to North Korea in an apparent attempt to improve ties with its ally.

A visit to Pyongyang by Liu Yunshan, a leading member of the Chinese Communist Party’s Politburo, who is ranked fifth in the party hierarchy, was seen as the first diplomatic step toward easing troubled relations between the two countries.

Jee Abbey Lee contributed to this report, which was produced in collaboration with the VOA Korean service.