According to the Chosun Ilbo, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong (a top leader of the former and current DPRK leadership) arrived at Beijing Capital International Airport on Thursday. Pundits believe he is sounding out his hosts about a possible visit from regime leader Kim Jong-un.
But Ri is only passing through en route to Africa, according to a diplomatic source in Beijing, and has no official schedule to meet Chinese officials.
He left the airport in a North Korean embassy vehicle and no Chinese officials welcomed him at the airport.
But Ri Chol is expected to stay for four days, leaving enough time for him to hold a closed-door meeting with Chinese officials.
China invited Kim to a parade marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in September, but ties are chilly at the moment.
Meanwhile, the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Thursday expressed willingness to offer food aid to North Korea after a severe drought there.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters that Beijing is keeping a close watch on drought reports.
“China sends sympathy to the North, and hopes that the North Korean government and people will win the battle against drought quickly,” Lu added.
The aid could serve as a stepping stone to improving ties.
According to a familiar source in Beijing, the visit of Ri Chol is due to the nomination of a former Chinese ambassador to Hungary as a representative for 6 party nuclear talks. Interestingly Ri Chol was seen in Beijing with the former DPRK ambassador to Romania.