SEOUL (Reuters) - A senior Chinese official met North Korean leader Kim Jong-il on Monday and a top U.N. political envoy was slated to arrive a day later in a new push to get the reclusive state to return to stalled nuclear disarmament talks.
Chinese Communist Party international affairs chief Wang Jiarui met Kim and conveyed a verbal message from Chinese President Hu Jintao, North Korea’s official KCNA news agency reported without elaborating.
The high-profile engagement this week with the North may bode well for reviving the six-country nuclear talks that North Korea has boycotted for a year, and could lead to a reduction of tensions on the troubled peninsula, analysts said.
The destitute North is under pressure to return to the nuclear talks, where it can win aid to prop up its broken economy, due to U.N. sanctions imposed after its nuclear test in May 2009 and a botched currency revaluation that sparked inflation and rare civil unrest.
Wang, who flew to North Korea at the weekend, met Kim last year and received a denuclearization pledge from the North Korean leader.
Wang had also met Choe Thae-bok, a high-ranking North Korean ruling party official, China’s Xinhua news agency reported.
Following him, Lynn Pascoe, UN under-secretary-general for political affairs, would visit North Korea from Tuesday through Friday to discuss what he said would be “a wide array of issues.”
China, the destitute North’s biggest benefactor, is seen as having the most influence on the reclusive state.
Analysts said there is a chance the North could launch military moves if the nuclear talks do not go well. Market players have said this would dampen sentiment and serve as a reminder of the dangers of investing in the troubled peninsula.
In a sign of the difficulties that lie ahead, the two Koreas made little progress on Monday in a separate round of talks aimed at resumption of tourism projects. The projects in the North run by an affiliate of the South’s Hyundai group were suspended more than a year ago due to political tension.
“The talks ended without any special agreements,” a South Korean Unification Ministry official said after the two sides met in the North Korean border city of Kaesong.
The tours to a mountain resort and an ancient capital once earned the North’s leaders tens of millions of dollars a year and Kim has appealed to have them restarted.
A few hours after the discussions began, North Korea’s official media ran a report where it quoted state security officials as saying the country was ready to strike those in the South who were plotting to overthrow Pyongyang’s leaders.
“There is no room for the group of traitors to stay in Korea and on the earth as they bring harm to the country with their back turned on the nation,” the North’s media report said.
North Korea in recent weeks has been reaching out to South Korea, which once was a major aid donor, but also threatening its neighbor and U.S. military ally by firing artillery near its neighbor.
In a move seen as bettering the mood with the United States, the North’s most important dialogue partner in the nuclear talks that also include China, Japan, Russia and South Korea, Pyongyang at the weekend released a U.S. missionary it had held since late December for illegally entering the country.
Additional reporting by Christine Kim; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani