Fri, Mar 09, 2018 - Page 5 News List

China urges US, N Korea to talk ‘sooner than later’

‘INTERFERENCES’:Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi told reporters that ‘the journey ahead will not be smooth,’ adding that easing tensions seem to quickly resume

AFP, BEIJING

Camera screens show Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi speaking during a news conference yesterday on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress at the media center in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

Photo: AP

China’s foreign minister yesterday urged the US and North Korea to start talks as soon as possible, stressing that “the sincerity” of all parties to solve the nuclear crisis would be tested.

Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) cautiously welcomed Seoul’s announcement that Pyongyang had offered to hold denuclearization talks with the US in return for security guarantees.

The North agreed to hold a historic summit between its leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in late next month.

“The Korean Peninsula issue has finally taken an important step in the right direction,” Wang told a news conference on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress’ annual session.

“These initial steps must be followed up by corresponding and concerted efforts by the parties. We call on the parties, particularly the US and the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea], to engage in dialogue sooner rather than later,” he said.

However, Wang issued a word of caution, saying that breakthroughs on the North Korean nuclear issue had collapsed in the past.

“Of course it takes more than one cold day to freeze 3 meters of ice,” he said.

“Despite light at the end of the tunnel, the journey ahead will not be smooth. History has reminded us time and again that whenever tensions subsided on the peninsula the situation would be clouded by various interferences,” he said. “Now is the crucial moment to test the sincerity of the parties to solve the nuclear issue.”

Wang’s comments came as two South Korean envoys left for Washington to brief US officials on the North’s offer, after their landmark visit to meet Kim in Pyongyang.

According to Seoul, Kim said the North wanted to talk to the US and would not need nuclear weapons if the nation’s security was guaranteed.

Envoy Chung Eui-yong, head of Seoul’s National Security Office, is to travel to China and Russia following his Washington trip.

The security concerns of North Korea must be addressed in return for progress toward denuclearization, Wang said.

Under pressure from US President Donald Trump, Beijing has backed a series of UN sanctions against North Korea, sending relations between the Cold War-era allies to a new low.

Beijing has repeatedly called for negotiations to peacefully put an end to tensions that have raised fears of nuclear warfare, after months of fiery rhetoric between Kim and Trump.

China’s proposal for the US, Japan and South Korea to suspend joint military drills in the region in return for North Korea halting its nuclear and missile tests was “the right prescription,” Wang said.

In Tokyo, which has seen North Korea test ballistic missiles over its airspace, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that North Korea’s offer of denuclearization talks with Washington could be a ploy to play for time.

“I’ve repeatedly said that we have to create a situation of putting maximum pressure on North Korea so that the North wants to have talks with us,” Abe told the Japanese parliament. “Talks for the sake of talks are meaningless and we should never loosen sanctions just because North Korea is open to talks.”

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