Fri, Dec 07, 2018 - Page 6 News List

North Korea sends top diplomat for talks with China

AP, BEIJING

North Korea’s foreign minister was due to arrive in key ally China yesterday for talks that come amid stalled efforts to persuade Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear weapons programs.

North Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Ri Yong-ho is scheduled to meet Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) in Beijing today, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Beijing is Pyongyang’s most important economic and political partner, but has signed on to UN economic sanctions aimed at pressuring North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to abandon his drive to develop nuclear weapons and the ballistic missiles to deliver them.

Kim sharply raised tensions with nuclear and missile tests last year, but suddenly reached out to South Korea and the US this year with a vague nuclear disarmament pledge.

North Korea is now seeking security guarantees from the US and relief from international sanctions.

Ri is also expected to be briefed on discussions last week between Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) and US President Donald Trump, who recently announced that his next meeting with Kim would likely happen next month or in February.

Despite the optimism among some circles generated by Kim and Trump’s June summit meeting in Singapore, little has transpired since then.

At the time, some experts said the US could soon accept a North Korean request for jointly declaring the end of the 1950 to 1953 Korean War as part of security assurances to North Korea, but diplomacy has since come to a halt amid disputes over a US demand that North Korea first produce a full inventory of its nuclear weapons and take other denuclearization steps before winning significant outside rewards.

For its part, North Korea wants sanctions relief, an end-of-war declaration and other reciprocal measures from the US, arguing that it has taken some steps, like dismantling its nuclear testing facility and releasing US detainees.

China fought on North Korea’s behalf during the Korean War and while ties have grown frosty at times, Xi hosted Kim for three summits in China this year, both before and after Kim’s meeting with Trump.

However, Xi did not attend celebrations for the 70th anniversary of North Korea’s founding in September in what was seen as an indication that Beijing expected further action from Pyongyang, including concrete progress toward denuclearization.

Ri’s visit also comes amid intense speculation over the possibility that Kim is to visit South Korea this month.

No North Korean leader has traveled to South Korea since the end of the Korean War, which killed millions.

There have been five summit talks between the leaders of the Koreas, three of them between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, but they all happened either in Pyongyang or the inter-Korean border village of Panmunjom.

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