SEOUL, South Korea – A senior Chinese official plans to visit North Korea next week, a news report said Friday, in what is seen as a mission to jump-start stalled international talks on ending Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programs.
Wang Jiarui, head of the liaison office of China's ruling Communist Party, may meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and deliver a letter from Chinese President Hu Jintao as on previous trips, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said, citing an unidentified diplomatic source in Beijing.
The trip is part of a regular exchange of visits by the longtime allies, the report said.
Wang met Kim during a January 2009 trip to Pyongyang. Kim told him Pyongyang was "dedicated to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula," and he wanted to move international talks forward, according to Beijing's Xinhua news agency.
In Beijing, staffer Yang Lei from the Communist Party's international department refused to comment on the report, saying only "the whole thing has not been confirmed yet."
North Korea, which tested an atomic bomb last year and is believed to have enough weaponized plutonium for at least a half-dozen more, walked away from six-nation disarmament talks last year.
The other participants, China, the U.S., Japan, South Korea and Russia, have been trying to get the talks back on track. North Korea, however, has pushed Washington for a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War and a lifting of sanctions first.
This week, Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said no discussion about political or economic sanctions can take place before the disarmament talks are back on.
There also has been speculation in recent weeks that Kim may travel to China soon. Beijing extended an invitation to Kim last year to visit at his convenience.
Kim has visited China and Russia, the North's two major remaining allies, by train. He last traveled to China in 2006.
The leader had planned to travel to Beijing in late January but canceled his plans, Yonhap said.
Beijing, which backed North Korea during the Korean War, has long been the country's main source of economic aid and diplomatic support.