China, more than any other nation, can help resolve the issue of North Korean weapons proliferation. Its offer to host talks between Pyongyang and Washington has come at the best possible time. Beijing has a stake in ensuring dialogue takes place. Without stability in North Korea, it has no assurance against being flooded with refugees. While relations with the US may be warming, offering a venue for dialogue could help further broaden the relationship. But even greater is the need to avoid the threat of nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula. Such a possibility poses as much a problem to China as it does the US, South Korea and Japan. The North's withdrawal from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, expelling of inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency and scrapping of an energy agreement with the US were hardly matters that China's leaders could ignore. As Pyongyang's closest ally, they had an obligation to act. While they were contemplating a position, South Korea stepped into the breach and offered to mediate. Instead of being a solution, the move by President Kim Dae-jung and his successor, Roh Moo-hyun, only served to reveal a rift in policy with the US. With North Korea's threats to resume its nuclear programme and testing of missiles so real, the US has little alternative other than consider dialogue. Deciding to refuse this until the North reversed its position served only to exacerbate the problem. US Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly has returned to East Asia and former US ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson has held talks with North Korea's envoys to the world body. Secretary of State Colin Powell's comments that dialogue was the only way forward sealed the US position. These moves have been given impetus by China's offer. It is a step that reflects China's growing maturity as a respected player on the global stage. The US and North Korea must now accept the offer - dignifying it by seriously looking to settle their differences.