, BEIJING, Nov 30 – Two top North Korean officials arrived in Beijing on Tuesday amid sharp tensions on the Korean peninsula following the North\’s artillery attack on the South, South Korean and Japanese media said.
Kim Yong-Il, the head of the international department of North Korea\’s ruling Workers\’ Party, arrived in Beijing on a flight from Pyongyang, Japan\’s Kyodo news agency reported.
South Korea\’s Yonhap news agency reported separately that Choe Thae-Bok, chairman of North Korea\’s Supreme People\’s Assembly and considered a close confidant of leader Kim Jong-Il, also arrived for a visit.
China\’s Xinhua news agency had said that Choe would be visiting until December 4, but its state media had made no previous mention of a visit by Kim, who is a top official in charge of diplomatic matters.
China\’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the visits and there was no mention in state media of the arrivals.
Tensions in the region have skyrocketed since North Korea launched an artillery barrage on a South Korean border island last week, killing two marines and two civilians and setting homes ablaze.
China, as North Korea\’s major ally, has come under pressure to use its influence to rein in Pyongyang, but Beijing has so far refused to publicly take sides.
On Sunday, it called for "emergency consultations" in Beijing in December among the envoys to the six nations involved in stalled talks on dismantling North Korea\’s nuclear weapons programme.
However, the United States, South Korea and Japan — all parties to those talks — have brushed aside the proposal. The six-nation negotiations also include Russia, North Korea and hosts China.
Japan\’s foreign ministry also said it was sending its top North Korea envoy to China on Tuesday, where he will meet his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei.
Japan\’s embassy in Beijing declined comment when contacted by AFP.