Following Trump-Xi meeting, China to send special envoy to N Korea

China will send a special envoy to North Korea this week, state media said Wednesday, after US President Donald Trump concluded an Asian tour to rally support against Pyongyang's nuclear threats.

Washington has urged China to intensify use of its economic leverage over North Korea to strongarm Pyongyang into halting its nuclear weapons and missile programmes. The last time China's special envoy for North Korea visited the country was in February a year ago.

Song Tao, the head of the Communist Party's worldwide liaison department, will visit Pyongyang as special envoy of President Xi Jinping, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday.

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On Sunday, Trump said Xi stated that "he is upping the sanctions against" North Korea, but he did not provide details and China has not announced any new punitive measures.

The trip, however, comes amid global concerns over North Korea's nuclear weapons programme and missile tests.

Xi has never met North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.

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Kim and Xi exchanged messages of congratulations and thanks over the Chinese party congress, but neither leader has visited the other's country since assuming power.

Song's department is in charge of the party's relations with foreign political parties, and has traditionally served as a conduit for Chinese diplomacy with North Korea.

China's new special envoy for North Korea, Kong Xuanyou, who took up his position in August, is not believed to have yet visited the country since assuming the job.

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Beijing fears pressuring Kim's regime into collapse, triggering a flood of refugees across its border and eliminating a strategic buffer separating China from the United States military in South Korea.

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