x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Beijing repeats call for North Korea nuclear talks

China pushed for the "urgent" resumption of six-party talks regarding Pyongyang's nuclear programme.

BEIJING // China yesterday repeated calls for the "urgent" resumption of six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear programme, as the unofficial US envoy, Bill Richardson, said he had made progress during a visit to Pyongyang.

Mr Richardson, the governor of New Mexico and a former US ambassador to the United Nations, said in Beijing yesterday that he had seen "a pragmatic attitude" during his trip.

Tensions on the peninsula have calmed significantly since South Korean military drills on Yeonpyeong island on Monday passed off peacefully without response from the North. Four people died on Yeonpyeong when it was shelled by North Korea after its southern neighbour held similar exercises late last month.

"When I pushed hard for non-retaliation, I saw a little bit of movement in a positive direction," Mr Richardson told Associated Press Television.

Earlier this week, Mr Richardson said he had secured agreement from Pyongyang for the return of International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to the country to visit uranium-enrichment facilities.

In response, the US State Department spokesman, Philip Crowley, said on Monday that North Korea would have to demonstrate its willingness to allow inspectors in before the six-party talks, stalled since last year, could begin again. He talked of Pyongyang's previous "broken promises".

"If they meet their international obligations, take affirmative steps to reduce tensions in the region and take affirmative steps to denuclearise, we will respond accordingly," he said.

China called last month for the talks to restart, and yesterday the foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu repeated this message.

"We hope the parties meet each other halfway ... and address each other's concerns within the framework of the six-party talks," she said. "The current situation shows emergency consultations among the six parties are necessary and urgent."

Instead of agreeing to the resumption of the six-party talks, the United States, Japan and South Korea recently held their own discussions in Washington.



* With additional reporting by Bloomberg