North Korean sends top diplomat to key ally China

BEIJING (AP) — North Korea is sending its foreign minister to key ally China for talks amid a stall in efforts to persuade Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear programs.

Ri Yong Ho was due to arrive late Thursday and meet Friday with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.

China is the North's most important economic and political partner, but has signed on to United Nations sanctions aimed at pressuring leader Kim Jong Un to abandon his drive to develop nuclear weapons and the ballistic missiles to deliver them.

Kim sharply raised tensions with nuclear and missile tests last year, but suddenly reached out to South Korea and the United States this year with a vague nuclear disarmament pledge.

North Korea is seeking security guarantees from the U.S. and relief from international sanctions.