A North Korean envoy made it clear to President Xi Jinping yesterday that Pyongyang is willing to take steps to rejoin long-stalled six-party talks on its nuclear weapons programme, according to mainland media.
Vice-Marshal Choe Ryong-hae, the special envoy of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, also presented Xi with a handwritten letter from Kim at yesterday's meeting in Beijing. Media reports did not say what it said.
Choe told Politburo Standing Committee member Liu Yunshan on Thursday that North Korea was willing to "have talks" with all parties, but stopped short of naming the six-party talks.
The US and South Korea said in response that it was too early to say whether Pyongyang was serious about rejoining the talks, which it abandoned in 2009.
Choe told Xi that Pyongyang would act to foster peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.
"North Korea is willing to make joint efforts with all parties to appropriately resolve related issues through multilateral dialogue and consultations like the six-party talks, and to maintain peace and stability on the peninsula," China Central Television quoted Choe as saying.
Xi told Choe all sides should strive for the removal of nuclear weapons from the peninsula.
"China has a very clear position concerning the issue - that all the parties involved should stick to the objective of denuclearisation, safeguard peace and stability on the peninsula, and resolve disputes through dialogue and consultation," he said.
General Fan Changlong , a vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, made a more direct appeal when he met Choe. "Tensions on the Korean peninsula regarding the nuclear issue have intensified strategic conflicts among parties and jeopardised the peace and stability of the peninsula," Xinhua quoted Fan as saying.
Xi also told Choe that bilateral friendship was in the interests of both countries and their people.
Shi Yinhong , an international relations specialist at Renmin University, said the meeting with Xi was unlikely to change China's stance on the nuclear issue. "It remains unclear if North Korea wants to return to the negotiating table unconditionally," Shi said. "The meeting with Xi only showed China's willingness to improve the relationship with Pyongyang, but the overall attitude will not change unless North Korea can sincerely take positive action … that is, abandon nuclear weapons."