Negotiators from North Korea and China held strategic talks in Beijing on Wednesday following a rough patch in relations between the communist allies and Pyongyang’s surprise weekend call for dialogue with the US
North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan arrived for talks at the Foreign Ministry with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui that were expected to focus on bilateral relations and the situation on the Korean Peninsula.
Beijing hopes the discussions will lead to a resumption of long-stalled six-nation nuclear disarmament talks hosted by China and also grouping North and South Korea, Russia, Japan, and the US
North Korea angered China, its most important ally, with a long-range rocket launch and nuclear test over recent months, leading Beijing to back tightened UN sanctions and crack down on illicit North Korean banking activity.
That apparently prompted a visit last month to Beijing by top North Korean envoy Vice Marshal Choe Ryong-hae, who was quoted as saying Pyongyang was “willing to take active measures” to return to talks.
Choe’s visit was followed by renewed outreach to South Korea, and on Sunday, Pyongyang surprised many by proposing “senior-level” talks with the US to ease tensions and negotiate a formal peace treaty ending the Korean War, which concluded only with an armistice.
However, in its invitation, 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 prized nuclear assets unless Washington is willing to do the same.
The Obama administration responded that it was open to dialogue, but wants “credible negotiations” that involve 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.