Senior North Korea envoy visits Beijing after China coal ban - Kyodo


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North Korea's Deputy Foreign Minister Ri Kil Song leaves after a meeting with Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in Phnom Penh February 4, 2015. REUTERS/Samrang Pring

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SEOUL (Reuters) - A senior North Korean diplomat arrived in Beijing on Tuesday for talks in the first such high-level visit since June last year, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported, after China halted coal imports from the impoverished nation under U.N. sanctions.

North Korea's main diplomatic ally said it would ban coal imports about a week after the isolated country this month tested an intermediate-range ballistic missile, for the first time since U.S. President Donald Trump took office.

The North's Vice Foreign Minister Ri Kil Song arrived by air in the Chinese capital, Kyodo said, in the first such visit since a June trip by Ri Su Yong, a member of the country's ruling party politburo.

There was no indication of Ri's agenda, but he was expected to hold talks with senior Chinese officials, Kyodo said.

The visit comes after North Korea issued a rare reproach of China, saying it was "dancing to the tune" of the United States for halting coal imports over the North's nuclear and missile programmes.

The move aimed to comply with U.N. sanctions imposed after nuclear tests by the North, the latest in September.

In a Reuters interview, Trump said he welcomed China's ban, but Beijing could solve the challenge posed by the North "very easily if they want to," turning up pressure on China to do more.

China later dismissed the renewed pressure from Trump over its role in North Korea, saying the crux of the matter was a dispute between Washington and Pyongyang.

(Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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