China this week showed new enthusiasm for reviving long-stalled six-nation talks aimed at achieving permanent North Korean denuclearization.
In a series of recent bilateral meetings, Chinese diplomats met with U.S., South Korean and North Korean officials to see if a path could be worked out for restarting the aid-for-denuclearization negotiations, which also involve Japan and Russia, the Yonhap News Agency reported. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin spent much of the week meeting with officials in Pyongyang before traveling to Seoul on Thursday for a three-day visit.
"We will continue to make positive efforts in our own way to press ahead with the resumption of the six-party talks," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said to journalists.
The last round of six-nation talks took place in late 2008. Since that time, North Korea has made notable strides in its progress toward acquiring a deliverable long-range nuclear weapon. The country has conducted two more atomic tests, carried out its first successful launch of a space rocket and moved to substantially increase its fissile-material production capacity.
Pyongyang has also sought to secure international recognition as a nuclear-armed state but with much less success. While the North has said it is open to returning to negotiations, it has repeatedly emphasized its nuclear weapons program is inviolable and that the United States should disarm first.
Washington and Seoul, for their part, have said they will not return to the six-party discussions until Pyongyang first demonstrates a serious commitment to irreversible denuclearization.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry last week visited Beijing, where he said he and Chinese officials exchanged "specific" proposals for reviving the nuclear talks with North Korea. Directly after Kerry's trip, Liu departed for Pyongyang where he is thought to have shared with officials there the proposals discussed at the U.S.-China meeting, Yonhap separately reported.
Liu told North Korean officials that China would "never allow war or chaos" on the Korean Peninsula, according to a Chinese Foreign Ministry statement. Beijing is gradually re-establishing high-level contacts with Pyongyang that were briefly frozen after North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un surprised the world with his December purge and execution of his powerful uncle, Jang Song Thaek, who was seen as relatively close to Beijing.
"Liu Zhenmin stressed that China adheres to the goal of denuclearization of the peninsula, maintaining peace and stability ... and solving problems through dialogue and negotiations," the foreign ministry said.
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