Economic sanctions have come on the heels of a tough diplomatic year for North Korea. Nuclear tests, missile launches and the trial and temporary imprisonment of journalists further alienated the reclusive state. There are signs, though, that Kim Jong-il's regime is trying to engage the outside world again. The country sent an envoy to China, its only source of aid, often seen as a first step for North Korea.
As usual, the official word out of Pyongyang is meager, with the Korean Central News Agency (North Korea's mouthpiece) saying only that the envoy was led by Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Yong-il (though reported by Reuters, I was unable to find this announcement on the KCNA website at any point in the past week, though Kim Yong-il appears to have been courting officials from Laos).