President Hu Jintao's special envoy held talks with Pyongyang's top nuclear strategist to bring the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) back to disarmament negotiations.
The reportedly "candid and in-depth" meeting between special envoy Dai Bingguo and the DPRK's First Vice Foreign Minister Kang Sok-ju on Wednesday is the latest international effort to persuade the DPRK to return to denuclearization.
Earlier this month, the United States pressured all nations to impose tougher UN sanctions against the DPRK, which said it had succeeded in enriching uranium, a crucial step before manufacturing nuclear weapons. Beijing has sought to bring the DPRK back to the Six-Party Talks, which Pyongyang withdrew from in April.
Kang is DPRK leader Kim Jong-il's chief foreign policy expert and has been the main strategist for the country's nuclear program. Though Pyongyang's Korea Central News Agency did not elaborate on the discussions on Wednesday, it is widely believed that the focus was on the DPRK's nuclear program.
The Yonhap news agency of the Republic of Korea said that Dai is expected to meet with Kim Jong-il but did not give any timeframe for the meeting.
China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said that she had no details on Dai's trip, but a ministry statement stated that the two sides "held deep discussions on regional and global issues," without any elaboration.
At least one expert on the DPRK said the Wednesday meeting most likely did not lead to the reopening of the six-nation talks.
Shen Dingli, executive dean of the Institute of International Studies at Shanghai-based Fudan University, said it is just part of "a normal exchange between two allies," and added that "it won't make Pyongyang abandon its nuclear plan."
"The DPRK sees the nuclear program as its lifeblood," Shen said.
The US is considering direct talks with Pyongyang, which has recently improved its relations with the Western nation.
ROK's Yonhap news agency reported on Wednesday that US special envoy Stephen Bosworth could visit Pyongyang as early as late October.
But US officials said any such talks would have to be within the context of efforts to resume the Six-Party Talks.
"The solution to the DPRK's and all parties' respective concerns should be sought in the framework of Six-Party Talks," said John Milligan-Whyte, chairman of the Center for America-China Partnership. "Any deal between the US and the DPRK depends on China's support of it."
He added that Washington and Beijing view Pyongyang from different perspectives, but China is more sympathetic to the DPRK.
"China, with its historical perspectives, understands that in part – if only in part – that DPRK's actions are a response to the need for such weapons for defense," Milligan-Whyte said.
The Chinese delegation also included Beijing's chief nuclear negotiator, Vice-Foreign Minister Wu Dawei.
(China Daily September 18, 2009)