China Names New Envoy to N. Korea

By Maureen Fan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, September 9, 2006

BEIJING, Sept. 8 -- China has appointed an outspoken career diplomat with extensive knowledge of the United States as its new ambassador to North Korea, the official New China News Agency said.

Analysts said the appointment of Liu Xiaoming, 50, suggests officials in Beijing are reassessing their relationship with Pyongyang and trying to find a new way to press discussions among China, North Korea and the United States.

"He is young and capable, a new-generation diplomat who is outspoken and sees things with a sharp eye," said Yang Chengxu, a Chinese expert on arms control and a senior research fellow with the China Institute of International Studies. "One of his biggest advantages is his knowledge of the United States."

The appointment of Liu, a former ambassador to Egypt, was announced late Thursday. He will succeed Wu Donghe, who has served as ambassador since 2001.

The choice is unlikely to affect the current deadlock in six-party talks over North Korea's nuclear program, but it shows that China is thinking about its relations with North Korea in a more comprehensive manner, said Shi Yinhong, professor of international relations at People's University in Beijing.

"This comes as China increases the frequency of communication with the U.S. The Diplomatic Affairs Ministry is very cautious in choosing the ambassador, and Liu's experience will be helpful in enhancing the triangle communications among China, North Korea and the U.S.," Shi said.

Liu has held posts at the Chinese Embassy in Washington and at the Foreign Ministry in Beijing.

Yonhap, the South Korean news agency, reported last weekend that China is preparing to invite North Korean leader Kim Jong Il to Beijing to warn against further provocation, but a spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry said this week that he was unaware of any arrangements for such a visit.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company