BEIJING (AP) — China will send a leading member of the Communist Party's all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee to Pyongyang this month for commemorations of the founding of North Korea's ruling party.
Sunday's announcement comes amid a long dry spell in exchanges between the sides, whose traditional close relations have been strained by North Korean missile launches and nuclear tests.
A party announcement said that Liu Yunshan, ranked fifth in the party hierarchy, would travel to the North on Friday. The announcement said that along with attending events marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Worker's Party of Korea, Liu would pay a "friendly visit" to the North.
Liu's visit will be closely scrutinized for any interactions with North Korea's reclusive young leader Kim Jong Un, who has snubbed Chinese visitors to Pyongyang in recent years.
China remains North Korea's most important ally and trading partner, but ties have cooled decidedly since Kim took power in December 2011 following his father's death. Kim has yet to visit China and declined an invitation to attend a military parade in Beijing last month.
Beijing has signed on to United Nations sanctions on North Korea and reacted angrily to the North's last nuclear test, in 2013, calling in the North's ambassador to complain.