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China says nuclear envoy visited North Korea

Reporters ask China's Wu Dawei questions after a meeting with South Korea's nuclear negotiator Wi Sung-Lac (not pictured) at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul July 13, 2009. REUTERS/Choi Bu-Seok

BEIJING (Reuters) - Senior Chinese nuclear envoy Wu Dawei ended a five-day visit to Pyongyang on Friday, but did not apparently meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, as Beijing pushes to get dialogue with North Korea back on track.

Wu met his North Korean counterpart Kim Kye-gwan as well as the North’s foreign minister, Pak Ui-chun, the official Xinhua news agency said.

“They exchanged views on bilateral relations, the regional situation and issues of mutual concern,” Xinhua said in a brief report from Pyongyang.

It made no mention of any meeting with Kim Jong-il.

China has urged North Korea to return to stalled six-country talks hosted by Beijing on ending the North’s nuclear ambitions in return for massive aid to prop up its battered economy and better diplomatic standing to end its isolation.

North Korea has said it was boycotting the talks among the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.

China is the North’s biggest benefactor and the closest thing Pyongyang can claim as a major ally. China appeared to have temporarily suspended high-profile visits to North Korea in anger at Pyongyang’s nuclear test in May that led to U.N. sanctions, analysts said.

North Korea this month freed two U.S. journalists and a South Korean worker it has held in separate incidents since March and said it was ready to restore South Korean tourism that had been suspended since last year due to political wrangling with Seoul.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Ken Wills and Dean Yates