SEOUL, April 11 (UPI) — A senior Chinese official visiting North Korea, as part of a cultural exchange, may hold negotiations with Kim Jong Un on the North’s nuclear program, ahead of Kim’s summits with Seoul and Washington.
The North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Wednesday that a Chinese cultural delegation will visit Pyongyang to attend the 31st April Spring Friendship Art Festival which runs from Wednesday through next Tuesday.
The festival is held every two years in the North, to commemorate the birth of late founder Kim Il-sung on April 15th, which is also known as the Day of the Sun.
The KCNA says the Chinese arts troupe’s visit will solidify the basis of Pyongyang and Beijing’s cultural exchange and advance their friendly relations to a whole new level.
The group will be led by Song Tao, a senior member of the Communist Party’s Central Committee, who heads the international department.
The visit comes after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made a secret trip to China late last month, and held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, with whom he agreed to strengthen bilateral relations and cultural exchanges.
The two leaders appear to have been seeking to strengthen their ties ahead of the North’s upcoming summits with South Korea and the United States.
Experts say there’s a possibility that Song may have a face-to-face meeting with Kim himself, during his trip.
Song visited Pyongyang as the Chinese leader’s special envoy to the North last November but went home without meeting Kim, as relations at the time were reportedly strained due to the North’s continuous nuclear and missile testing. However, pictures of Kim during his Beijing visit in March show the two officials brightly greeting each other.
“It appears that the relations between China and North Korea which became distant for a while have quickly recovered are becoming complete normalized,” Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said.
Some say Kim and Song will negotiate terms regarding the North’s nuclear program, prior to its summits with the Seoul and Washington, Seoul Economic Daily reported.