POSTED: 06:10 p.m. HST, May 23, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 06:10 p.m. HST, May 23, 2013
BEIJING >> A North Korean envoy, on the second day of his fence-mending visit to ally China, heeded Beijing's wishes by offering to renew nuclear disarmament talks, Chinese state media said.
The accounts depicted today's meeting between North Korean Vice Marshal Choe Ryong Hae and Chinese Communist Party leader Liu Yunshan as paying Beijing the deference it sought after months of rising friction between the long-estranged allies.
Choe praised China's work on behalf of peace and stability and its "great efforts to return (Korean) peninsular issues to the channel of dialogue and negotiation," China Central Television reported. It quoted Choe as saying North Korea "is willing to accept the suggestion of the Chinese side and launch dialogue with all relevant parties."
The North's official Korean Central News Agency did not mention the concession and instead quoted Choe as saying Pyongyang is committed to maintaining generations of friendly ties with Beijing.
Choe's mission is the first high-level, face-to-face contacts between the two governments in a half-year, an unusual gap during which Pyongyang conducted rocket launches and nuclear tests and other saber-rattling. The moves angered Beijing, which felt its interests in regional stability were not being heeded. It 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.
China's North Korea watchers said Chinese leaders would unlikely have accepted Choe's visit without a promise from Pyongyang that it was prepared to return to diplomacy as Beijing has sought.
"The relationship is rocky, so they will try to mend the relationship," said Cui Yingjiu, a retired professor of Korean at Peking University. "Second, they also want to improve relations with the U.S. and need China to be their intermediary."
CCTV said Liu, the Communist Party's fifth-ranked leader, called at the meeting for "practical steps to alleviate the tense situation" and an early return to six-nation Korean denuclearization talks involving the U.S., South Korea, Japan and Russia as well as North Korea and China.
Pyongyang sent Choe to Beijing as a special envoy for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. As such, North Korea watchers said he is expected to hold talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping. His comments today will likely be seen by Beijing as setting the correct atmosphere of deference for such a meeting.
Xi was in southwest China's Sichuan province on today inspecting recovery efforts from last month's earthquake.
Awaiting Xi's return, Choe spent part of today touring an industrial park in southern Beijing, accompanied by a Communist Party functionary. The Chinese government has in the past used such tours to try to persuade North Korea to adopt China's model of economic reform accompanied by rigid one-party rule.