About the Author
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.
A North Korean foreign ministry delegation departed Pyongyang for China on Thursday, state media reported, in news that comes as the second DPRK-U.S. summit in Hanoi draws to a close.
The visit by the delegation, which is led by vice foreign minister Ri Kil Song, comes over a month after a Beijing summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
That meeting which saw the two leaders pledge, among other things, to step up cultural exchanges, and was followed weeks later by a visit by high-level North Korean diplomat Ri Su Yong to Beijing.
Ri during a meeting in Beijing that week with Xi Jinping pledged to strengthen “friendly” ties with the PRC.
Likely on the agenda for vice foreign minister Ri Kil Song this week will be further steps to build on that commitment — as well as the outcomes of today’s DPRK-U.S. summit.
This week’s meeting saw the two leaders fail to agree on a signed agreement or declaration, though U.S. President Donald Trump at a post-summit press conference spoke highly of the role China had played in the negotiating process so far.
“President Xi is a great leader, a highly respected leader all over the world, and I would say he’s helped us a lot,” Trump said.
“He has been very helpful at the border and he’s been very, very helpful with I think North Korea generally,” he added. “Could he be a little more helpful? Probably. But he’s been excellent.”
DPRK state media earlier in the week reported Kim is set to remain in Vietnam for a “goodwill” visit until Saturday, at which point he is expected to return to North Korea via China.
It is as yet unknown if he will conduct any bilateral talks with Chinese officials on his journey back to Pyongyang.
One expert said Ri’s visit this week would likely focus on outcomes of today’s summit — as well as potential planning for a fifth Kim-Xi meeting.
“Even though today’s U.S.-DPRK summit ended without an agreement, that doesn’t mean that the North Korean side will not report on the outcome to their Chinese ally,” Chris Green, a North Korean expert at the International Crisis Group.
“Either this delegation is there delivering that report, or they are the advanced preparatory grouping for a future Kim-Xi summit. China will not want to be left out of this process.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham