China and North Korea to hold talks this week
BEIJING (AP) -- China's Foreign Ministry said Monday it will hold a strategic dialogue with North Korea this week following Pyongyang's surprise offer of new talks with the U.S.
Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui will meet North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan on Wednesday in Beijing , ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters at a regularly scheduled briefing. Hua said the two would discuss bilateral relations and the situation on the Korean Peninsula.
"China has been paying close attention to developments on the peninsula, and has been actively working towards the early resumption of dialogue and negotiation by all sides," Hua said, referring to long-stalled six-nation nuclear disarmament talks hosted by China and including South Korea, Japan, Russia, the U.S., and North Korea.
North Korea surprised many on Sunday with an announcement from the National Defense Commission headed by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un proposing "senior-level" talks with the U.S. to ease tensions and negotiate a formal treaty to end the Korean War, which concluded only with an armistice, not a peace treaty.
Tensions spiked this year over Pyongyang's long-range rocket launch and February nuclear test. Those moves angered China, the North's most important ally and biggest source of trade and aid, prompting a visit last month to Beijing by a top North Korean envoy who stated that Pyongyang was willing to take steps to return to talks.
The envoy, Vice Marshal Choe Ryong Hae, was quoted as saying Pyongyang was "willing to take active measures in this regard," although it wasn't clear whether the North had committed to any timeframe.
The Obama administration said Sunday it was receptive to North Korea's proposal, but wants "credible negotiations" that will lead to a nuclear-free North.
The offer is expected to be discussed in meetings this week in Washington involving U.S., Japanese and South Korean officials.