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North Korea Willing to Work to Resume Nuclear Talks, China Says

North Korean Soldier
A North Korean soldier patrols along the bank of the Yalu River in the North Korean town of Sinuiju, across from the Chinese city of Dandong. Source: AFP/Getty Images

North Korea is willing to work with China to resume six-party talks aimed at curtailing its nuclear program, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said today.

North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan told China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi in a meeting yesterday that his country would work toward resumption of the talks “to fundamentally ensure peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula,” according to a statement posted on the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s website.

Kim was in China for a conference marking the 10th anniversary of the start of the six-party process, which aimed to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions in return for aid. The talks began after North Korea withdrew from the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003 and stepped up efforts to develop nuclear weapons. The country has since tested three nuclear devices and extended its ballistic missiles’ range.

The Chinese comments come amid signs that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is trying to ease tensions with the South. The two Koreas agreed in August to reopen the jointly run Gaeseong industrial park and those talks paved the way for an accord to renew reunions of families separated by the Korean War. Gaeseong, which was shuttered in April when the North pulled out its 53,000 workers, opened Sept. 16.

Nuclear Test

Little has come of China’s previous signals that North Korea was willing to revive the six-party talks, which involve the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia. North Korea quit the process in 2009, a month before its second nuclear test. North Korea held its third test in February and threatened a nuclear first strike against the U.S. and South Korea in March, complicating efforts to revive negotiations.

North Korea may have restarted its main nuclear reactor at Yongbyon, a site capable of producing enough plutonium to make one atomic bomb every year, the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies said this month. That reactor was mothballed in 2007 as part of the six-nation process.

Glyn Davies, the U.S. special representative for North Korea, on Sept. 10 ruled out a quick resumption of the talks unless the North first showed signs of reversing its nuclear program.

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