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View more articles by Hamish Macdonald
Hamish Macdonald is an NK News contributor and has previously worked at The Korea Herald and for the Australia Centre for Independent Journalism in Sydney.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping will seemingly not be attending celebrations for North Korea’s 70th founding anniversary and instead will send a special envoy in his place, Xinhua News Agency reported on Tuesday citing a spokesperson from the Communist Party of China (CPC).
North Korea will be staging a series of events to mark its 70th anniversary, which occurs on September 9, including a military parade, mass games, and other celebrations.
“China’s top legislator Li Zhanshu will head a delegation to visit the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Saturday as a special representative of Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and Chinese president,” the Xinhua report reads.
According to the report, the unnamed spokesperson from the CPC Central Committee’s International Department announced that Li was invited by the Central Committee of the Worker’s Party of Korea (WPK) and the North Korean Government.
Li is the current Chairman of the National People’s Congress – the country’s legislature – and is the third highest ranking official in the CPC’s Politburo Standing Committee. North Korean state media also reported on the planned visit on Tuesday.
Speculation as to whether or not Xi would attend the September events was rife following his three previous summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in 2018 – all of which were held in China.
Kim’s first official foreign visit as leader was to Beijing in late March where he held discussions with Xi. He then conducted a follow-up summit in Dalian in early May and a third in Beijing in June – a week after he met with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore.
In contrast, U.S.-DPRK diplomatic activity has stalled since the Singapore summit, with Trump accusing China of playing a central role in the current political impasse. The most recent accusation occurred on August 29 in a Tweet that Trump said was a White House statement.
“President Donald J. Trump feels strongly that North Korea is under tremendous pressure from China because of our major trade disputes with the Chinese Government,” the post read.
“At the same time, we also know that China is providing North Korea with considerable aid, including money, fuel, fertilizer and various other commodities. This is not helpful!”
The statement is not the first time Trump has voiced the opinion that China was negatively impacting developments with the DPRK due to ongoing trade disputes, making similar comments in June.
China has denied any such interference and on August 30 accused the U.S. of distorting facts and attempting to shift the blame for shortcomings in negotiations.
Featured Image: North Korea – China friendship (Cropped) | Roman Harak