NKorea Envoy Gives Letter to China's Xi05/24 07:17
BEIJING (AP) -- A top North Korean envoy delivered a letter from leader Kim
Jong Un to Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday and told him Pyongyang would
take steps to rejoin stalled six-nation nuclear disarmament talks, in an
apparent victory for Beijing's efforts to coax its unruly ally into lowering
North Korean Vice Marshal Choe Ryong Hae's visit was part of efforts to mend
fences after Pyongyang angered Beijing with recent snubs and moves to develop
its nuclear program.
The official China News Service said Choe delivered the handwritten letter
from Kim to Xi at an afternoon meeting at the Great Hall of the People in
central Beijing. It gave no details about the letter's contents.
North Korea is willing to work with all sides to "appropriately resolve the
relevant questions through the six-party talks and other forms," Choe was
quoted as saying by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.
He said Pyongyang was "willing to take active measures in this regard."
Choe offered no details on how North Korea planned to resume talks. North
Korea has reneged on commitments made in previous rounds of the six-party
talks, stalemated since 2009 over disagreements on how to verify steps the
North was taking to end its nuclear programs.
China has been under intense pressure from Washington to push North Korea
into lowering tensions and resuming dialogue.
Xi reaffirmed longstanding ties between the communist neighbors, and urged
all sides to "keep cool and exercise restraint."
The six-party talks should aim to end North Korea's nuclear programs and
"maintain lasting peace and stability on the peninsula and in northeast Asia,"
Xi was quoted as saying.
The meeting followed an unusual half-year gap in high-level contacts during
which Pyongyang angered Beijing by conducting rocket launches, a nuclear test
and other saber-rattling --- spiking tensions with South Korea and the U.S.
Beijing considered the moves an affront to its interests in regional
stability and showed its displeasure by joining with the U.S. to back U.N.
sanctions and cut off dealings with North Korea's Foreign Trade Bank.
North Korea also frustrated Beijing by refusing to agree to high-level
meetings and incensed the Chinese public this month with the detention of a
Chinese fishing crew.
"The relationship is rocky, so they will try to mend the relationship," Cui
Yingjiu, a retired professor of Korean at Peking University, said of North
Korea. "Second, they also want to improve relations with the U.S. and need
China to be their intermediary."
North Korea has figured prominently in recent visits by Secretary of State
John Kerry and other U.S. officials, and Choe's three-day visit to Beijing came
ahead of a meeting in California early next month between Xi and President
Barack Obama, as well as a trip to Beijing by South Korean President Park
Geun-hye in late June.
China is North Korea's last significant diplomatic ally and main source of
trade and economic assistance. Ties between their insular communist governments
have always been wrapped in secrecy and it is not clear whether the contents of
Kim's letter to Xi will ever be revealed.
China is believed to have agreed to Choe's visit only after Pyongyang
committed to returning to the process of negotiation, and required him to state
that publicly twice before his meeting with Xi.
Earlier Friday, a top Chinese general told Choe that Beijing wanted a
peaceful, denuclearized Korean Peninsula, in a reiteration of China's
established position that could also be seen as a rebuke to the North.
The official state Xinhua News Agency quoted Fan Changlong as telling Choe
that tensions surrounding the nuclear issue have "intensified strategic
conflicts among involved parties and jeopardized the peace and stability of the
Xinhua quoted Choe as telling Fan that there is "no guarantee of peace" but
his country was "willing to work with all sides to search for a method of
solving the problems through dialogue," Choe said.
On Thursday, Choe told the ruling party's fifth-ranked official that North
Korea "is willing to accept the suggestion of the Chinese side and launch
dialogue with all relevant parties."
John Delury, a professor at Yonsei University in Seoul who specializes in
China and North Korea, said the fact that Kim's envoy "is being quoted as
saying that North Korea is open to China's suggestions already is a strong
signal of kiss and make up."
"This trip is moving things back to a regular strategic dialogue," he said.