BEIJING – A top Chinese Communist Party (search) official headed to North Korea Saturday on a diplomatic mission to draw the isolated Stalinist regime back to stalled disarmament talks.
Wang Jiarui, head of the diplomatic department of the Chinese Communist Party arrived at Beijing's international airport for a flight to Pyongyang (search).
During his visit, he was expected to try and persuade North Korea to return to the negotiating table. It was not immediately clear how long the trip would be.
Restarting the six-country talks has taken on greater urgency since North Korea declared last week that it is a nuclear power. The talks involve the two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan.
North Korea says it is boycotting the talks until Washington abandons what it calls a hostile policy toward the North.
Washington hopes Beijing — Pyongyang's last major ally — will use its economic influence on North Korea to get it to stop developing nuclear weapons. China is an indispensable source of fuel and trade for the impoverished North.
However, Beijing has insisted in the past that it has little influence over the Stalinist regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il (search), and has resisted U.S. appeals to pressure his country.
In recent days, China has publicly and repeatedly called for "patience and calm" from all involved parties, and has said it did not believe sanctions would work against North Korea.