One of China's most powerful officials will visit North Korea on Saturday to attend the 70th anniversary of Pyongyang's founding day.
Li Zhanshu, chairman of the National People's Congress, will be traveling to North Korea as a special representative of Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to state-owned network CCTV.
Previous reports had suggested Xi would travel to Pyongyang to meet with Kim Jong Un in what could have been a fourth summit between the two leaders.
Li, 68, is China's third most powerful politician, after Xi and Premier Li Keqiang, according to South Korean news service News 1.
Analysts say Xi may have decided to forgo a trip to Pyongyang for several reasons, including recent criticism from U.S. President Donald Trump about China's role in North Korea impasse.
"With Trump stepping up his rhetoric against China over trade and North Korea, Xi going to Pyongyang would probably reinforce his thinking that Beijing has not been enthusiastic enough about denuclearization," Zhang Baohui, an analyst at Lingnan University in Hong Kong told the South China Morning Post.
"Sending Li as a top official representative will help as a goodwill gesture to North Korea, but it avoids reinforcing Trump's thinking."
Li's visit to North Korea will also send a signal to Pyongyang China is keen to maintain close relations with the Kim regime.
Previously as Xi's chief secretary, Li coordinated the president's daily affairs, and Xi's overseas trips to key countries like Russia.
The two men have known each other since the early 1980s, when Li was promoted to party secretary of Wuji County in Hebei Province, and Xi was the party chief of neighboring Zhengding County.
Li joined the Chinese Communist Party in 1975, according to reports.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
Copyright © UPI, 2019. All Rights Reserved.