North Korean leader sends 'special envoy' to China

By MARGIE MASON | Associated Press – 1 hr 25 mins ago

View Photo Associated Press/Ng Han Guan, File - FILE - In this April 15, 2012 file photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, chats with North Korean People's Army senior officers, Vice Marshal and the military's …more

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2012 file … PYONGYANG. Military chief is considered a higher-ranking position than defense minister. Kim Kyok Sik. Choe Ryong Hae. He also was defense minister until being recently replaced by a little-known general. China is Pyongyang's economic and diplomatic lifeline. That test was followed by U.In this July 18. Kim Kyok Sik previously held the military chief post until 2009. and there have been tentative signs of diplomacy in the region. Kim replaces Hyon Yong Chol as military chief. which included an underground nuclear test in February. There were no other details on the appointment. sanctions and a protracted period of high tensions as North Korea threatened nuclear strikes on Washington and Seoul.N. The trip is the highest-profile visit by a North Korean official to China this year. Chinese Ambassador Liu Hongcai was among dignitaries on the tarmac for his departure. a top Workers' Party official and a vice marshal tasked with supervising the North Korean army. View Photo FILE . There are signs of strains in relations between Beijing and Pyongyang over North Korea's nuclear ambitions. departed on a chartered Air Koryo flight with a political and military delegation. . He is the former commander of battalions believed responsible for attacks in 2010 that killed 50 South Koreans. providing nearly all of its fuel and most of its trade. The rhetoric has fallen off in recent weeks. and foreign analysts said the trip could be an attempt to win more aid and repair ties. and it takes place as the new leadership in China shows frustration with North Korea and a greater willingness to work with Washington to harry Pyongyang over its nuclear ambitions. The state media dispatch detailing Choe's departure from Pyongyang also showed that Kim Jong Un has named a hardline general. North Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un dispatched a highprofile official and close confidant to travel to China on Wednesday as a special envoy while Beijing is under pressure to rein in its belligerent neighbor. as his new military chief.

according to KOTRA. including short-range projectile launches off the east coast. Kim Jong Il. Leader Kim Jong Un hasn't visited Beijing since he took power from his father.In one sign of Beijing's move displeasure with Pyongyang. The numbers show deepening economic ties between North Korea and China in the last few years as the North's economic exchange with South Korea weakened. including director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People's Army. the uncle who visited China in August last year. The 2012 figure was not available. who visited China in August 2011 just months before his death that December. China's state-run Bank of China said this month it had notified the Foreign Trade Bank of North Korea that its accounts were closed and all financial transactions suspended. China is North Korea's top trade partner. Choe's trip is believed to be the first top-level meeting between North Korean and China since Chinese Politburo member Li Jianguo went to Pyongyang in late November bearing a letter from Xi Jinping. South Korea. China and North Korea are jointly developing a pair of special economic zones: Rason on the Korean Peninsula's northern tip and Hwanggumphyong. Meanwhile. The ship's owner said the captain was beaten and the vessel's fuel stolen. who had just been installed as China's party chief. Choe and his delegation may be ask for more economic aid from Beijing and to explain North Korea's recent military moves. Rason has recently begun to develop thanks to Chinese infrastructure projects. Chinese fishermen said gunmen in North Korean military uniforms held a crew captive at gunpoint for two weeks before finally releasing the boat this week. a North Korea specialist and professor at Myongji University in Seoul. which collects North Korean trade data. The visit precedes discussions about a trip by South Korean President Park Geun-hye to China next month. said Lee Ji-sue. member of the Presidium of the powerful Political Bureau of the ruling Workers' . China accounted for 53 percent of North Korea's annual trade. According to the most recent figures from Korea TradeInvestment Promotion Agency in Seoul. Choe is close to Kim Jong Un and is often seen on state television standing next to the leader. but Hwanggumphyong has languished since ground was broken last year. Choe holds a slew of top posts. China accounted for 89 percent of North Korea's exports and imports in 2011. along with Jang Song Thaek. an island in the Yalu River that marks their border to the southwest. In 2005. North Korea watchers in China said during the tense weeks of March and April that Beijing had explored sending an envoy to Pyongyang but decided against it because North Korea would not guarantee a meeting with Kim.

and Sam Youkyung Lee and Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul. SOURCE: http://news. vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers' . contributed to this report. __ Associated Press writer Kim Kwang Hyon in Pyongyang. and member of the Supreme Assembly.Party. South Korea.