BEIJING (AP) — Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi told North Korea's foreign minister on Tuesday that Beijing supports the North's planned summits with South Korea and the United States.
The Foreign Ministry cited Wang, China's state councilor and foreign minister, as telling Ri Yong Ho at a meeting in Beijing that China appreciates North Korea's efforts to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
The ministry described Ri as saying that North Korea would maintain close strategic communications with China as outlined at last week's surprise meeting between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and his North Korean counterpart, Kim Jong Un. Kim's visit to China made clear that Beijing, North Korea's only major ally and chief provider of energy and trade that keeps the country's broken economy afloat, will have a major role in any effort to rein in the North's nuclear program.
Earlier Tuesday, Wang told reporters that China hopes a planned meeting between North Korea and the U.S. would be able to avoid "disruptive factors" and stick to the pursuit of dialogue between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump.
"Of course, historical experience tells us that when there is an easing in the situation on the peninsula and hopes for peace and dialogue appear, there will often be disturbances of this or that kind," Wang said at a briefing with reporters following a meeting with Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis. "We call on all parties to maintain their determination, eliminate interference, and go along in the right direction of dialogue and negotiation."
North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency said Ri led a government delegation that left Pyongyang, the North's capital, on Tuesday to take part in a ministerial meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement to be held in Azerbaijan and visit Russia.
The meetings between China and North Korea appear aimed at improving both countries' positions ahead of Kim's anticipated meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Trump in the coming weeks.
A key objective for Beijing is to reassert its relevance to the talks, from which it has been excluded. China has appeared increasingly shut out as its relations with North Korea deteriorated and the North reached out to Seoul and Washington.
Ties in recent months have frayed as China supported tougher U.N. sanctions on North Korea and suspended coal and iron ore imports. Last year, North Korea seemingly sought to humiliate Beijing by timing some of its missile tests to coincide with major global summits in China.