China says North Korea sending delegation to new Silk Road summit

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that North Korea will be sending a delegation to next week’s summit on President Xi Jinping’s ambitious new Silk Road project.

Leaders from 28 countries will attend the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing on May 14-15, an event orchestrated to promote Xi’s vision of expanding links between Asia, Africa and Europe underpinned by billions of dollars in infrastructure investment.

“According to what I understand, the North Korean side will send an official delegation to relevant events at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation that will shortly be taking place,” spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily briefing.

He did not elaborate.

Despite Chinese anger at North Korea’s repeated nuclear and missile tests, China remains the isolated state’s most important economic and diplomatic backer, even as Beijing has signed up for tough U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang.

China has over the years tried to coax North Korea into cautious, export-oriented economic reforms, rather than sabre rattling and nuclear tests, but to little avail.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore