Senior diplomats from North Korea and China held strategic talks in Beijing yesterday as they work to repair strained relations, but offered little specific indication they will lead to a resumption of nuclear disarmament talks any time soon.
North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan told Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui that Pyongyang was willing to develop friendly and co-operative relations with Beijing, Xinhua reported, adding that the country was willing to engage in talks on nuclear issues.
"DPRK is willing to resolve the dispute over its nuclear programme peacefully through talks, including returning to the six-party talks process as well as any other format of dialogues," Xinhua quoted Kim as saying.
Zhang said China supported dialogue among all concerned parties and wished the stalled six-party talks could resume as soon as possible. He also said China would work with North Korea to forge stable bilateral relations.
The meeting followed Pyongyang's surprise offer on Sunday to hold direct talks with the US after months of threats that raised the possibility of fresh fighting on the Korean peninsula.
The North's nuclear programme was also believed to be on the agenda for the meeting between United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and President Xi Jinping in Beijing yesterday. Ban met Xi after visiting a centre that trains China's UN peacekeepers. Xi said: "The UN carries the expectations of people of all countries."
In its offer to Washington, North Korea's National Defence Commission, the powerful governing body led by leader Kim Jong-un, insisted that there be no preconditions to talks and no demands that Pyongyang give up its nuclear assets unless Washington was willing to do the same.
The Obama administration responded that it was open to dialogue, but wanted "credible negotiations" that involved North Korean compliance with UN resolutions and would lead to a nuclear-free North.
The proposal is expected to be discussed in meetings this week in Washington involving US, Japanese and South Korean officials.
Cui Zhiying , director of the Korean Peninsula Research Centre at Tongji University in Shanghai, said Beijing wanted to push for dialogue.
"China will call on Pyongyang to go back to the negotiating table," Cui said. "Beijing is expected to ask both Pyongyang and Washington to offer sincere gestures in having dialogue."
Cui said Beijing knew that denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula could not be achieved in a short period of time.
Cai Jian , deputy director of the Centre for Korean Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, said it was unlikely that South Korea and the US would immediately engage in talks with Pyongyang.
Associated Press, Reuters