China, North Korea Hold Talks 06/19 07:27
BEIJING (AP) -- Negotiators from North Korea and China held strategic talks
in Beijing on Wednesday as they work to repair strained relations, but offered
little indication they will lead to a resumption of nuclear disarmament talks
any time soon.
Neither Pyongyang or Beijing offered details of the meeting between North
Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan and Chinese Vice Foreign
Minister Zhang Yesui. They were expected to focus on bilateral relations and
the situation on the Korean Peninsula.
The meeting followed Pyongyang's surprise offer Sunday for direct talks with
the U.S. after months of threats that raised the possibility of fresh fighting
on the Korean Peninsula.
With its long-range rocket launch and nuclear test earlier this year, North
Korea angered China, its most important ally, leading Beijing to back tightened
U.N. sanctions, crack down on North Korean banking activity and urge Pyongyang
to return to disarmament talks.
North Korea has sought to mend ties since then, including with a visit last
month to Beijing by top 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 proposed "senior-level" talks with the U.S. 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 Defense 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 U.N.
resolutions and would lead to a nuclear-free North.
The proposal is expected to be discussed in meetings this week in Washington
involving U.S., Japanese and South Korean officials.
Renewing nuclear talks is also expected to be on the agenda for meetings
this week between Chinese leaders and visiting United Nations Secretary-General
Ban Ki-moon, a former South Korean foreign minister.
China is also expected to reaffirm its support for a nuclear-free Korean
Peninsula during a visit next week by South Korea's President Park Geun-hye.
North Korea continues to send mixed messages on negotiations and its only
clear intent is to mend ties with Beijing, said Fang Xiuyu, a professor at the
Center for Korean Studies at Shanghai's Fudan University.
"North Korea hopes this visit could achieve the goal of having a meeting
between leaders of the two countries and expounding to China its nuclear
stance," Fang said.
However, six-nation talks are dependent on first improving North-South
relations and holding talks between Pyongyang and Washington, he said.
"Without those conditions, the effect of the talks won't be good even if
they do resume," Fang said.
North Korea likely used Wednesday's talks to seek Chinese support for
arranging a meeting with the U.S., said Hwang Jihwan, a North Korea expert at
the University of Seoul.
"North Korea will try to strategically use its relationship with China to
facilitate dialogue with Washington. It will try to talk to the U.S. through
China," Hwang said.