The leaders of South Korea and China are slated to hold a summit this week that will closely consider North Korea's nuclear weapons work.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is scheduled to travel to South Korea to meet with South Korean President Park Geun-hye for their fifth meeting so far this year. The visit comes as Xi has yet to sit down with North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un, Reuters reports. International observers are expected to watch if Xi gives any indication of his government's perceived frustration with Pyongyang's continued provocative tactics and pursuit of a deliverable nuclear weapon.
China has long been North Korea's biggest foreign ally and chief economic benefactor. However, the belligerent actions of the Kim regime in recent years -- including the apparent test-firing in 2012 of a long-range ballistic missile, a 2013 nuclear test and repeated threats earlier this spring of another atomic detonation, as well as the high-profile execution last winter of Kim's uncle -- are thought to have pushed Beijing to the limits of its patience.
Xi and Park "are expected to spend considerable time discussing the North Korean nuclear and the Korean peninsula issues in depth, and we believe the atmosphere will be appropriately reflected in a joint document," South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se told lawmakers on Monday.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin on Tuesday said the North Korean nuclear impasse would be an "important topic" for discussion during the Seoul-Beijing meeting.
Both China and South Korea are participants in a frozen six-nation process aimed at permanently ending North Korea's nuclear work. While Seoul wants Pyongyang to first provide a concrete gesture of its commitment to denuclearization before the negotiations are resumed, Beijing does not believe there should be any preconditions before talks continue.