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China to tap senior Communist Party official as new envoy to North Korea

BEIJING

China is expected to appoint Wang Yajun, a senior official of the ruling Communist Party, as the nation’s new ambassador to North Korea, succeeding incumbent Li Jinjun, a diplomatic source said Monday.

Given that North Korea has cut off traffic to and from China since early last year amid lingering fears that the novel coronavirus could intrude into the country, it remains to be seen when Wang, 51, will assume office.

The replacement of China’s ambassador would come as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at the congress of the ruling Workers’ Party in January, expressed eagerness to deepen relations with other socialist nations such as China.

All eyes are on whether China will attempt to get closer to North Korea, as their ties with the United States have shown little sign of improving soon even after Joe Biden became the new U.S. president last month.

Beijing, Pyongyang’s most influential ally, has been at odds with Washington over several issues including trade, state-of-the-art technology and alleged human rights abuses, while U.S.-North Korea talks on denuclearization and sanctions relief have been stalled.

Wang is currently serving as deputy head of the International Liaison Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. Li, 64, was tapped as China’s ambassador to North Korea in 2015.

On Monday, meanwhile, North Korea marked the 73rd anniversary of the founding of its army.

The Rodong Sinmun of the Workers’ Party said in its editorial, carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency in English, that the country’s army has become the “strongest elite revolutionary army which is capable of smashing up any forces of aggression at a blow.”

Earlier in the day, citizens and military personnel laid flowers and bowed in front of giant statues of North Korea’s founder Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jong Il, the former leader who died in 2011, on Mansu Hill in the heart of Pyongyang.

With North Korea’s trade with its neighbors, China and Russia, plunging against a backdrop of the pandemic as well as powerful typhoons and flooding, concerns have been mounting that its citizens have not received adequate daily necessities.

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