Trump Says Talks With North Korea's Kim In 'May Or Early June'

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China said Wednesday that a high-ranking diplomat plans to travel to Pyongyang later this week amid a flurry of diplomacy following North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's surprise visit to Beijing.

The delegation will leave on Friday to attend the April Spring Friendship Art Festival at the invitation of North Korea's Workers' Party, China's official Xinhua news agency said in a brief report.

A senior Chinese official will visit North Korea, leading an art troupe as Pyongyang and Beijing have agreed to strengthen cultural exchanges, the North's state media said Wednesday.

The chairman's seat (center), presumably for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, is vacant at a Supreme People's Assembly session in Pyongyang on Wednesday, in this photo released by the [North] Korean Central News Agency on Thursday.

Song Tao, the head of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee's global department, will lead the mission.

Mongolia has also been floated as a possible location of the summit, which would follow a first meeting between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae In slated for April 27 at the truce village of Panmunjeom. Following his summit with Xi, Kim dispatched his foreign minister to Moscow, reportedly exploring the possibility of a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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Both North Korean and foreign artists take part, and this year's week-long event includes concerts, dance performances and acrobatics.

Kim's visit was seen as meant to secure more bargaining chips ahead of his planned meetings with President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump.

"The move appears meant to strengthen cultural exchanges following the North-China summit", Baik Tae-hyun, spokesman at Seoul's unification ministry, told a press briefing.

For years China was North Korea's sole major ally, but their relations have become strained over the past couple of years over Pyongyang's relentless testing of ballistic missiles and nuclear devices.

Seoul, Baik added, "will watch with interest whether it will lead to a performance in China by North Korean artists that was cancelled in December 2015".

Song had visited Pyongyang late previous year to brief officials about the party's October congress.