North Korea ready to accept China's peace effort

Pyongyang envoy meets top mainland official and says his country is willing to restart multilateral talks to ease regional tensions

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 May, 2013, 7:23pm

A special North Korean envoy said in Beijing yesterday that Pyongyang would accept China's suggestion that it restart talks with relevant parties to restore a peaceful environment on the Korean peninsula, China Central Television said last night.

Vice Marshal Choe Ryong-hae, a senior member of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party and the Korean People's Army's top political officer, told Liu Yunshan , who ranks fifth in the Politburo Standing Committee, that he was visiting China to improve, consolidate and develop relations between the two countries, the state broadcaster reported.

"North Korea appreciates China's enormous efforts to maintain peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and push for a return to talks and consultations on the problems of the Korean peninsula, and is willing to accept China's suggestion to have talks with all parties," he said.

Choe held talks with the head of the Communist Party's international liaison department, Wang Jiarui , on Wednesday. His trip to China is seen as a move by North Korea to mend fences with China after months of ignoring warnings from Beijing to abandon its nuclear weapons programme.

North Korea was also willing to create a peaceful international environment, Choe said yesterday, and hoped to concentrate on developing its economy and improving people's livelihoods.

Liu told the close ally of North Korea's young leader, Kim Jong-un, that Beijing hoped all sides would uphold the aim of making the Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons, and of solving problems and maintaining stability through dialogue.

North Korea appreciates China's efforts to maintain peace and stability
Choe Ryong-hae, North Korean envoy

He also said that China hoped all parties would take practical steps to ease tensions and "restart six-party talks as soon as possible and work hard for long-lasting peace and stability in northeast Asia and on the Korean peninsula".

The relationship between the two Communist allies has been strained since North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test in February.

Analysts said Choe's remarks at his meeting with Liu showed Pyongyang was considering a return to the negotiating table after threatening the use of force, but was likely to proceed with its nuclear programme if future negotiations failed.

"What North Korea has done over the past few months is put itself out on a ledge, and they need China's help to get off," said Cai Jian , deputy director of the Centre for Korean Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai.

It was not clear whether the North Korean envoy's announcement was a sincere response to China's frustration, Cai said, because national security had always been the top priority of North Korea's ruling dynasty and Kim may cancel the talks if he felt the reaction from the outside world was negative.

The six-party talks - involving China, North Korea, the United States, South Korea, Japan and Russia - have been stalled since North Korea conducted its second nuclear test in 2009.

Cui Zhiying , director of the Korean Peninsula Research Centre at Shanghai's Tongji University, said the resumption of six-party talks was still a long way off.

"Considering we've seen the longest and deepest North Korean nuclear crisis in recent years, other countries need time for such an effect to wear off," Cui said. "North Korea might have to start high-level bilateral dialogue first, which will help towards the resumption of multilateral talks."