The ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) is ready to "steadily develop traditional friendly relations" with North Korea, said Beijing's top envoy who is on a visit to Pyongyang. The North Korean state media quoted the Chinese diplomat as saying the CPC's position is to improve ties with the Pyongyang regime.

Song Tao, special envoy of China's President Xi Jinping, is in North Korea to hold key talks with top authorities of the Kim Jong-un regime. He arrived in Pyongyang late on Friday, 17 November, and his visit is likely to last for four days, although no formal itinerary has been released.

This is the first time a high-ranking Chinese representative has travelled to the reclusive nation in more than a year. This also gains additional significance since it is taking place amid high tensions in the region, mainly due to Pyongyang's relentless pursuit of its nuclear and missile programmes, defying UN regulations.

The North's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) released a statement on Saturday, 18 November, detailing Song's visit to Pyongyang. In his discussions with North Korea's senior official Choe Ryong-hae, Song briefed him about the latest political change taking place in China where Xi has been re-elected as the chief of CPC's central committee.

"Song Tao informed in detail of the 19th National Congress of the CPC," the KCNA report said. "He stressed the CPC's stand to steadily develop the traditional friendly relations between the two parties and countries."

Song also presented a gift for Kim, North Korea's third-generation dictator, when he met Choe. It is still unclear whether Song will hold direct talks with Kim during this trip.

China, which has so far played down Song's visit, remains cautious not to expect any major breakthrough from the trip. Though Beijing is yet to make an official announcement on the details of Song's tour since he arrived in North Korea, the state-run Global Times – which often reflects the administration's views – ran an editorial urging not to expect too much from the trip.

"Song is not a magician," the Chinese mouthpiece said. "The key to easing the situation in the peninsula lies in the hands of Washington and Pyongyang. If both sides insist on their own logic and refuse to move in the same direction, even if Song opens a door for talks, the door could be closed any time."

Earlier, US President Donald Trump billed Song's trip as a "big move" in the region.

Kim Jong-un
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un at a Korean People's Army (KPA) event in Pyongyang - File photo STR/AFP/Getty Images