WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. President Donald Trump is calling China's plans to send an envoy to North Korea a "big move." Trump weighed in on Twitter on Thursday. He says: "China is sending an Envoy and Delegation to North Korea - A big move, we'll see what happens!" He did not elaborate.
Following Trump's visit to Beijing, China said Wednesday that it would send a high-level special envoy to North Korea amid an extended chill in relations between the neighbors. The official Xinhua News Agency said the director of the ruling Communist Party's International Liaison Department, Song Tao, would travel to Pyongyang on Friday to report on the party's national congress held last month. Song would be the first ministerial-level Chinese official to visit North Korea since October 2015.
China is reiterating its call for an agreement between North Korea and the U.S. under which the North would gain concessions if it freezes its nuclear weapons program. The statement from foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang Thursday appeared to contradict President Donald Trump's remarks Wednesday that the U.S. and China agreed that North Korea cannot just freeze its nuclear weapons program in exchange for benefits. Trump said the North must eliminate its arsenal.
Trump was restating a long-standing U.S. position, but also suggesting that China now concurred with Washington that a "freeze-for-freeze" agreement was unacceptable.
Geng said at a regular briefing that China's position has not changed. He said the "freeze-for-freeze" initiative, under which the U.S. and South Korea would suspend large-scale military exercises in return, remained a "first step."