China’s foreign minister pushed on Friday for the restart of international talks on North Korea’s nuclear program, saying that Pyongyang is ready to recommit to the goal of denuclearization.
North Korea withdrew from the aid-for-disarmament talks in 2009, and over the past year has made clear it wants to be treated as a nuclear weapons state.
However, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (王毅) told a Washington think tank North Korea has recently said it is ready to come back to a 2005 commitment on giving up nuclear weapons, and to an agreement it reached with the US in February last year on freezing its nuclear programs in exchange for food aid.
That agreement fell through soon after it was hatched when North Korea reneged on it by testing a long-range rocket.
The US remains skeptical about Pyongyang’s intentions. North Korea conducted its third underground nuclear test in February, and in recent weeks there have been signs it is restarting a plutonium reactor that can produce fissile material for bombs.
Wang met on Thursday with US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Beforehand, Wang said he was confident they could reach “a new, important agreement” on how to relaunch the long-stalled disarmament talks that were originally hosted by Beijing.
China is North Korea’s only major ally and remains its main benefactor, but it has struck a more critical tone in the past year. China cooperated with the US in tightening UN sanctions against North Korea in response to the nuclear test.
Now China appears much more eager than Washington for negotiations to restart.
Speaking about US-China relations at the Brookings Institution think tank, Wang said that achieving denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is a common goal of the two global powers.
Wang said he is discussing with the US how to set a “reasonable threshold” for the resumption of the talks.
Washington is adamant that Pyongyang must first take concrete steps to show its sincerity — like the nuclear freeze the US tried to broker last year.
After Thursday’s talks with China, there was no sign of a breakthrough.
The US said Kerry had detailed to Wang “several disturbing developments” that indicate North Korea continues to flout its previous commitments to denuclearize.
Washington wanted to send an envoy to Pyongyang last month to request a pardon for a detained American, Kenneth Bae, who is accused of subversion.
North Korea withdrew its invitation at the last minute, citing the mobilization of nuclear-capable US bombers during military drills with South Korea.