Of­fi­cial says North Korea set on de­nu­cle­ariza­tion

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NEWS - CHRISTO­PHER BODEEN

BEI­JING — North Korea’s for­eign minister said his coun­try re­mains com­mit­ted to end­ing its nu­clear weapons pro­gram in talks Fri­day with his Chi­nese coun­ter­part, ac­cord­ing to China’s For­eign Min­istry.

The talks in Bei­jing be­tween Ri Yong Ho and Wang Yi came amid a lack of progress in in­ter­na­tional ef­forts to per­suade North Korea to re­verse its drive to build a nu­clear arse­nal.

China is North Korea’s most im­por­tant ally, but has agreed to in­creas­ingly strict United Nations eco­nomic sanc­tions over its pro­grams to de­velop nu­clear weapons and the bal­lis­tic mis­siles to de­liver them.

Ri told Wang that North Korea is “com­mit­ted to re­al­iz­ing de­nu­cle­ariza­tion and safe­guard­ing the peace and sta­bil­ity of the [Korean] penin­sula,” min­istry spokesman Geng Shuang told re­porters at a daily briefing.

In the talks, Ri was also ex­pected to have been briefed on dis­cus­sions last week be­tween Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

Trump re­cently said his next meet­ing with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would likely hap­pen in Jan­uary or Fe­bru­ary.

Ri later paid a cour­tesy call on Xi, who told him, “The in­ter­na­tional and re­gional sit­u­a­tion as well as the sit­u­a­tion on the Korean Penin­sula re­mains in flux.”

“So timely ex­changes and the co­or­di­na­tion of po­si­tions be­tween China and North Korea are still ex­tremely es­sen­tial,” Xi said.

De­spite ini­tial op­ti­mism gen­er­ated by Kim and Trump’s June sum­mit meet­ing in Sin­ga­pore, diplo­macy has since come to a halt amid dis­putes over a U.S. de­mand that North Korea first pro­duce a full in­ven­tory of its nu­clear weapons and take other de­nu­cle­ariza­tion steps be­fore win­ning sig­nif­i­cant out­side re­wards.

China, which fought on North Korea’s be­half in the 1950-53 Korean War, has sug­gested a more stag­gered ap­proach, in­clud­ing a sus­pen­sion of large-scale South Korean and U.S. war games

“The in­ter­na­tional and re­gional sit­u­a­tion as well as the sit­u­a­tion on the Korean Penin­sula re­mains in flux.” — Xi Jin­ping, Chi­nese pres­i­dent

on the penin­sula.

In ad­di­tion to sanc­tions re­lief, North Korea wants a dec­la­ra­tion on a for­mal close to the war, which ended with a cease-fire, not a peace treaty, and other re­cip­ro­cal mea­sures from the United States. North Korea has ar­gued that it has taken some steps, like dis­man­tling its nu­clear test­ing fa­cil­ity and re­leas­ing Amer­i­can de­tainees.

While tra­di­tion­ally close ties be­tween China and North Korea have frayed some­what, Xi hosted Kim for three sum­mits in China this year, both be­fore and af­ter his Sin­ga­pore meet­ing with Trump.

How­ever, Xi did not at­tend cel­e­bra­tions of the 70th an­niver­sary of North Korea’s found­ing in Septem­ber, seen as a sign that Bei­jing ex­pected more con­crete steps by Kim to­ward de­nu­cle­ariza­tion.

De­spite that, Geng said bi­lat­eral re­la­tions had “en­tered a new his­toric stage,” and the sides would “con­tinue forg­ing ahead with the de­vel­op­ment of the penin­su­lar sit­u­a­tion in the di­rec­tion of de­nu­cle­ariza­tion.”

Ri’s visit also comes amid in­tense spec­u­la­tion over the pos­si­bil­ity that Kim will visit South Korea this month, in what would be the first such trip by a North Korean leader since the war.

AP/FRED DU­FOUR

China’s Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping (right) talks Fri­day with North Korean For­eign Minister Ri Yong Ho at the Great Hall of the Peo­ple in Bei­jing.

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