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China urges DPRK talks

By Li Xiaokun and Zhou Wa (China Daily)

08:32, July 02, 2013

Beijing reaffirms commitment to denuclearization of Korean Peninsula

China on Monday encouraged the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to return to talks about ending its nuclear program and assured the United States that it is committed to the nuclear disarmament of the Korean Peninsula.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi held separate discussions with DPRK Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun and US Secretary of State John Kerry during an Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting in Brunei.

During his talks with Pak, Wang said he has "recently noticed some positive changes on the Korean Peninsula". Kerry, after meeting Wang, said that the two nations both reaffirmed their commitment to the DPRK's denuclearization.

Wang asked all parties, "including the DPRK", to work together to resume the nuclear disarmament talks and prepare for the Six-Party Talks.

The Six-Party Talks, initiated in 2003 in response to the DPRK's withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, involve the DPRK, the Republic of Korea, China, the United States, Japan and Russia. The talks have been postponed since 2008.

Top diplomats from all six nations involved in the Six-Party Talks are in Brunei for the regional meeting. On Sunday, ASEAN member countries called for the resumption of the talks.

Chinese experts said a surprise meeting of envoys from the DPRK, the US and the ROK on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit is unlikely.

The DPRK, however, did reach out to the ROK earlier this year and has offered direct talks with the US. Over the past few weeks, the DPRK has sent two envoys to Beijing, though details about the discussions have not been released.

The ASEAN Regional Forum has previously provided a chance to use informal talks to break stalemates over the nuclear arms issue in the Korean Peninsula.

In 2011, top nuclear envoys from the DPRK and the ROK met on the sidelines of the forum in Indonesia and agreed to work toward a resumption of the Six-Party talks. Foreign ministers from the DPRK and ROK held sideline talks in 2000, 2004, 2005 and 2007, and top diplomats from the DPRK and the US also met privately in 2004 and 2008.

But Gong Yuzhen, a professor of international affairs at Peking University, said the chances of such a meeting in Brunei are slim due to the "lack of basic trust at the moment".

"However, various bilateral and multilateral talks in the Six-Party Talks' mechanism reflect a will from all sides to move ahead," Gong said. "Pyongyang is also adjusting its policies."

Wang Junsheng, a researcher on East Asian studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the gathering in Brunei is actually a golden opportunity to discuss the DPRK's nuclear program.

South China Sea dispute

Kerry, who also met Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and ROK Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se in Brunei, said on Monday that Washington holds national interests in the disputes in the South China Sea.

"We have a strong interest in the manner in which the disputes of the South China Sea are addressed, and in the conduct of the parties," Kerry said in opening remarks at the regional security conference.

The remarks came one day after China said it would hold "official consultations" with Southeast Asian nations on a proposed code of conduct governing naval actions in September.

Thailand's foreign minister hailed the move as "very significant".

Peking University's Gong said US involvement in the South China Sea disputes, part of its pivot to the Asia-Pacific, complicates the regional situation.

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