North Korea is officially mum on whether Song Tao, a special Chinese envoy, met with leader Kim Jong-un over the weekend.
Song, the head of the International Liaison Department of the Communist Party of China, ended his four-day visit to Pyongyang on Monday, in a trip that was closely eyed for signs of a possible breakthrough in North Korea’s nuclear crisis.
There were no reports in North Korea’s press that a meeting took place. Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, noted on Monday that a “gift” that Song had brought for Kim was conveyed through another North Korean official.
“Respected Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un was presented with a gift by a special envoy of the general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.
The gift was conveyed to Choe Ryong Hae, member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, vice-chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the DPRK and vice-chairman of the C.C., by Song Tao,” Rodong Sinmum said in a terse statement.
South Korea’s government also couldn’t confirm if Song met with Kim. “Whether special envoy Song talked with Kim Jong-un or delivered President Xi’s handwritten letter [to Kim] has not been reported or confirmed yet, and [the ministry] will continue to follow the development closely,” South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun reportedly said in a press briefing.
Song paid his respects at the mausoleum of former North Korean leaders in Pyongyang during his visit to Pyongyang and met on Friday with Choe Ryong-hae, a high-ranking North Korean official. He also reportedly had discussions with Ri Su-yong, vice chairman of the Central Committee of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, the next day.
China’s envoy is said to have exchanged views about the situation on the Korean Peninsula and in the region and on bilateral relations, according to North Korean news agency KCNA.
Song was officially dispatched to Pyongyang by China to update North Korean officials on the results of the Chinese Communist Party’s 19th Congress in October. But his trip also followed soon after President Donald Trump’s 12-day Asian tour.
Trump, on his trip, had called on US allies and China to step up pressure on Pyongyang to resolve the nuke crisis. This prompted speculation in various quarters on whether Song was conveying a message to Kim from Beijing.