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North Korea

China offers its support after South Korea holds out olive branch to the North

Foreign minister backs Seoul’s efforts to ease tensions on peninsula

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 August, 2017, 1:50pm
UPDATED : Monday, 07 August, 2017, 11:29pm

China’s foreign minister has said his country supported initiatives put forward by South Korea to ease tensions on the peninsula and was ready to see contact made between the two sides.

Wang Yi told reporters on the sidelines of a regional security meeting in Manila on Monday that he hoped those countries could improve relations. He also noted that North Korea’s foreign minister had not entirely rejected proposals voiced by his South Korean counterpart.

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“My feeling is that the North is not completely rejecting the positive proposals by the South. To China – as a neighbour to both North Korea and South Korea – we support the positive initiatives by the new South Korean government and we are willing to see such contacts happen as soon as possible.”

However, the South’s Yonhap News Agency reported that North Korea’s foreign minister Ri Yong-ho had told his southern counterpart Kang Kyung-wha that Seoul’s proposals to improve ties with Pyongyang “lack sincerity”.

Kang has urged Ri to accept Seoul’s offers of talks to lower tensions on the divided peninsula, and for discussions on a new round of reunions for divided families.

But Ri retorted: “Given the current situation in which the South collaborates with the US to heap pressure on the North, such proposals lacked sincerity.”

Kang , however, insisted that the South’s offer was sincere and repeated a call for Pyongyang to come forward for talks.

Ri and Kang met for three minutes on Sunday at an official dinner for diplomats joining a series of meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

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It was the first time cabinet-level officials from the two Koreas had met since Moon Jae-in was installed as South Korean President.

In a phone call requested by Seoul on Sunday, US President Donald Trump and Moon committed jointly to “fully implement all relevant resolutions and to urge the international community to do so as well,” the White House said. Moon’s office said that he and Trump had agreed to apply “the maximum pressure and sanction”.

On Saturday the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution to expand sanctions aimed at cutting North Korea’s ability to fund its nuclear programme.

The new resolution prohibits UN member states from buying coal, iron ore and other key commodities from North Korea. The sanctions are expected to cut the reclusive state’s income by US$1 billion annually.

Following the UN vote, Wang urged the North Koreans to remain calm.

Additional reporting by Reuters, Associated Press and Agence France Presse