Chinese delegation led by vice premier to visit North Korea, state media says

FILE PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Naval Command of the Korean People's Army (KPA)

By Hyunsu Yim

SEOUL (Reuters) -A Chinese Communist Party and government delegation headed by Vice Premier Liu Guozhong will visit North Korea to take part in the celebration of the country's founding day later this week, state media KCNA reported on Thursday.

The visit comes at the invitation of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) and the government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), the report said.

The WPK is lead by Kim Jong Un, whose family has controlled the reclusive country since it was established in 1948.

North Korea celebrates its founding day on Sept. 9, known as the Day of the Foundation of the Republic, and this year will mark the 75th anniversary since the peninsula was freed from Japanese occupation.

U.S. officials say Kim may soon visit Russia, for what would be his first trip abroad since before the COVID-19 pandemic, to discuss a possible arms deal with President Vladimir Putin.

The New York Times, citing unnamed officials, said the visit could happen as soon as next week. Russia has said it has nothing to say on the report, and North Korean state media have not mentioned any visit to Russia.

In July, a Chinese delegation led by Chinese Communist Party Politburo member Li Hongzhong visited Pyongyang and attended a military parade commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of the Korean War - the first visit by a Chinese delegation since the pandemic.

During the parade Li and Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, who was also visiting the country, were seen in North Korean state media shoulder-to-shoulder with Kim as they watched the North's nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles, which are banned by the United Nations Security Council.

Last month North Korea began allowing its citizens back into the country for the first time since 2020, when it closed its borders during the pandemic.

(Reporting by Hyunsu Yim; Additional reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Sandra Maler and Stephen Coates)