By Mahmut Atanur
BEIJING (AA) - Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for calm and restraint on the Korean Peninsula during a meeting Wednesday with one of Pyongyang’s best known officials, Ri Su-yong, in Beijing.
Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported that Ri delivered an oral message to Xi from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un expressing hopes to work together to strengthen and enhance their traditional alliance.
Xi said China also values the countries’ “friendly cooperative relations” and insisted that Beijing has a consistent and clear stance when it comes to the Korean Peninsula.
He urged both sides to remain calm, practice restraint and enhance communication and dialogue for the sake of regional peace and stability.
Ri served as the North’s foreign minister until last month when he was promoted to leading positions within the reclusive state’s Workers’ Party during a May 6-9 congress in Pyongyang -- among those posts is a role overseeing international relations.
The diplomat’s visit comes amid a period of uncertainty on the Korean Peninsula -- Pyongyang’s landmark congress appeared to signal a desire for dialogue but Seoul has refused to meet with the North until it demonstrates a willingness to denuclearize.
South Korea has stated that it favors United Nations sanctions over talks following the imposition of a strengthened package of punitive measures in March, in response to North Korea’s fourth ever nuclear test and subsequent rocket launch.
After a weeks-long break from any major provocations, the North attempted to test-fire a medium-range ballistic missile early Tuesday morning, but Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff deemed the launch a failure.
Following Pyongyang’s latest nuclear test, even China has been seen to be enforcing punitive measures.
South Korean trade data shows that Chinese imports from the North dropped 22.3 percent on-year in April, suggesting Beijing’s willingness to comply with sanctions after criticisms of lax enforcement in the past.
China fought on the same side as North Korea during the 1950-53 Korean War, but Beijing has in recent years elevated its own calls for a denuclearized peninsula -- despite the North’s insistence that it is already a responsible nuclear weapons state.