China called on the United States during high-ranking bilateral talks over the weekend to resume delayed multinational negotiations focused on ending North Korea’s nuclear-weapons development, the Yonhap News Agency reported.
The Saturday conversation — between U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and other top Chinese officials — came as Beijing is trying to convince Washington to send an official representative to semi-formal six-party talks scheduled for Wednesday.
Those upcoming aid-for-denuclearization talks involve China, Japan, North and South Korea, Russia and the United States. The last formal round of negotiations took place in December 2008. Since that time, Pyongyang substantially has enhanced its nuclear-weapons program, carrying out a number of long-range missile tests, conducting two nuclear blasts and ramping up its fissile-material production capabilities.
“China stressed that, to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula … both sides should be committed to the swift resumption of the six-party talks,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said to journalists.
Washington, Seoul and Tokyo are hesitant to send envoys to take part in the largely academic Track 1.5 talks on Wednesday, given the lack of any sign by Pyongyang that it is willing to give up its nuclear weapons. The South Korean Foreign Ministry on Monday announced it would send two lower-level officials to the six-way meeting, Yonhap reported.
A North Korean delegation, that is lead by First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan and includes senior nuclear envoy Ri Yong Ho, arrived in Beijing on Monday. Kim and Ri are scheduled to take part in the semi-formal nuclear talks, according to Yonhap.
“We are closely watching the visit by Kim because there is a possibility that Kim may reach some sort of agreement when he holds talks with [his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei],” an anonymous South Korean diplomatic insider said.
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"A new cycle of escalation on the Korean Peninsula looks set to begin this week when the U.S. and South Korea kick off annual military exercises that have a history of enraging Pyongyang." The long-planned drills, set to last ten days, "will test whether North Korea’s apparent easing of its immediate threat to Guam proves durable—or if the de-escalation was really a backdown at all."