North Korea Repeats Offer For Nuclear Talks

A top North Korean diplomat repeated an offer for international talks on his country's disputed nuclear programme during a meeting in China on Wednesday, saying the denuclearisation of the peninsula was the "dying wish" of North Korea's founder.

A top North Korean diplomat repeated an offer for international talks on his country's disputed nuclear programme during a meeting in China on Wednesday, saying the denuclearisation of the peninsula was the "dying wish" of North Korea's founder.

The Beijing trip by First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan comes just days after North Korea offered talks with the United States to ease tension that spiked this year when the North threatened the United States and South Korea with nuclear war.

The White House has said any talks must involve action by the North to show it is moving toward disarmament, and the State Department repeated that position as diplomats from the United States, Japan and South Korea held talks in Washington.

After Kim's talks with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui, China's Foreign Ministry cited the North Korean, who has previously represented his country at talks to get it to halt its nuclear programme, as saying North Korea wanted talks.

"The denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula was the dying wish of Chairman Kim Il-sung and General Secretary Kim Jong-il," the Chinese ministry said in statement, citing Kim as saying.

Kim Il-sung founded the country. His son Kim Jong-il, who died in 2011, oversaw North Korea's first two nuclear tests. North Korea conducted a third test in February.

"North Korea is willing to have dialogue with all sides and attend any kind of meeting, including six-party talks, and hopes to peacefully resolve the nuclear issue via negotiation," Kim Kye-gwan was cited as saying.

Zhang, for his part, said that talks, stability and the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula were in everyone's best interests, China's Foreign Ministry added.

"China supports talks between the various parties and hopes for an early resumption of the six-party talks," Zhang said.

China has repeatedly urged North Korea to return to so-called six-party talks that aimed to get the North to halt its nuclear programme.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters the United States has long been open to talks in "coordination with our key partners."

"However, there are steps that North Korea needs to take, including credible denuclearisation, abiding by their international obligations and by the 2005 joint statement," she said, referring to an earlier six-party agreement.

U.S. North Korea envoy Glyn Davies and his counterparts from Japan and South Korea said in a brief statement after talks in Washington on Wednesday that they stood behind the 2005 statement and remained committed to implementing sanctions imposed on North Korea by the U.N. Security Council.

"A path is open for (North Korea) toward improved relations with the United States, Japan, and (South Korea) if (North Korea) takes meaningful steps on denuclearisation; we will judge (North Korea) by its actions, not its words," they said in a statement.

In 2009, North Korea said it would never return to those talks. The four other participants in the negotiations were South Korea, the United States, Japan and Russia.

North Korea was looking for holes in the international consensus that it must denuclearize by seeking dialogue with various countries, said Wang Dong, an international relations professor at Peking University in Beijing.

"If China's stance is still firm, North Korea will understand that there are no loopholes to exploit," Wang said.

"You can't have your cake and eat it too. I think China will make this clear to North Korea," he said, referring to Pyongyang's refusal to give up its nuclear weapons while at the same time trying to mend ties with key powers.


The talks are the highest-level contact between China and North Korea since U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping met in California in early June and agreed that North Korea had to denuclearize.

North Korea has repeatedly said it will never abandon its nuclear weapons, calling them its "treasured sword", a term one of its official newspapers used again on Wednesday.

Late last month, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sent another envoy to Beijing. According to a source with knowledge of that visit, Chinese officials gave the envoy a lukewarm reception while saying Beijing wanted an end to the North's nuclear and missile tests.

Li Bin, a nuclear policy expert at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre for Global Policy in Beijing, said he did not believe North Korea was ready to discuss its nuclear programme with China.

"But now they see that China is very serious with sanctions and is very angry. My guess is that they are coming to Beijing to avoid a situation in which the relationship between the two countries gets worse," he said.

China, the closest thing Pyongyang has to a major ally, backed the latest round of U.N. sanctions on North Korea, imposed for its Feb. 12. nuclear test. Some Chinese banks have also curtailed ties to their North Korean counterparts in the wake of a U.S. crackdown on the North's finances.

Next week, South Korea's President Park Geun-hye visits China, where North Korea is likely to be high on the agenda.

Washington has been sceptical of any move by Pyongyang towards dialogue as it has repeatedly backtracked on deals, most recently in 2012, when it agreed to a missile and nuclear test moratorium only to fire a rocket a few weeks later.