Ri Su-yong
North Korea's former foreign minister Ri Su-yong visits ChinaReuters

A top North Korean authority is in China on a three-day visit following the failure of Pyongyang's missile launch. Ri Su-yong, a former foreign minister and Workers' Party vice chairman, has made it clear that his tour is intended to push forward North Korea's dual policy of nuclear development and economic growth.

Ri, who is also the ruling party's chief of international relations, arrived in Beijing on Tuesday (31 May) in what is being seen as an attempt to bolster North Korea's struggling relations with China.

North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KNCA) reported that Ri has met his Chinese counterpart Song Tao, minister of the international department of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), shortly upon his arrival.

Ri has said that the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is keen on ensuring peace in the Korean peninsula "by always adhering to the strategic line of simultaneously pushing forward economic construction and the building of nuclear force".

It is still unclear how the Chinese side has received Ri and how they have treated his visit. Ri is the highest ranking North Korean official to visit Beijing since the isolated nation conducted its fourth nuclear test in January.

There are also reports that Ri could meet Chinese President Xi Jinping but this is yet to be confirmed.

During an official briefing by the Chinese foreign ministry, the spokesperson Hua Chunying said, Beijing is keen to maintain friendly relations with its neighbour. Ri is expected to hold a wide range of talks with Chinese authorities including a possible visit to China by Kim.

China remains one of the key trading partners of North Korea despite the country being isolated by world powers over its contentious nuclear programme. However, in recent years, Beijing is also becoming increasingly annoyed by the belligerent stance of North Korea and pulling back its support at international forums.