BEIJING (Yonhap News) ― A senior North Korean diplomat with long experience in negotiations on the North’s nuclear program arrived in Beijing Monday for a series of meetings as China is accelerating its efforts to resume the long-stalled talks aimed at ending Pyongyang’s nuclear ambition.
A delegation headed by North Korea’s First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan made an announced visit to Beijing, nearly three weeks after Kim held talks in Pyongyang with his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei.
The delegation included Ri Yong-ho, the North’s chief negotiator to the six-party talks, and deputy chief envoy Choi Sun-hee. They arrived at Beijing Capital International Airport at 10:08 a.m. via an Air Koryo flight and then left for the North Korean embassy in the capital city without making any remarks.
|North Korea’s Kim Kye-gwan arrives in Beijing on Monday. (Yonhap News)|
Kim and Ri are scheduled to attend a Wednesday conference that was organized by China’s foreign ministry to mark the 10th anniversary of the launch of the six-party talks.
The six-party process, involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan, has been stalled since late 2008.
China has proposed an informal six-party meeting following the Beijing event, but South Korea, the U.S. and Japan are cautious about sending their nuclear envoys to the Wednesday conference at a time when North Korea’s seriousness on dialogue about its nuclear programs remains untested.
A South Korean diplomat in Beijing, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, played down Kim’s visit, saying his trip to Beijing might be mainly aimed at attending the Wednesday conference.
“However, we are closely watching the visit by Kim because there is a possibility that Kim may reach some sort of agreement when he holds talks with Wu,” the diplomat said.
After stoking tensions early this year by conducting its third nuclear test, North Korea has recently made overtures toward South Korea and the U.S.
South Korea and the U.S. have called on North Korea to demonstrate its seriousness about denuclearization through concrete actions before any resumption of the six-party nuclear talks can take place.
North Korea has expressed its willingness to rejoin the six-party talks but has shown no signs of accepting the conditions set by Seoul and Washington. Instead, North Korea has insisted on being recognized as a nuclear power.
Seoul and Pyongyang, however, have shown clear signs of easing tensions in recent months. On Monday, the two Koreas restarted operations at a jointly run industrial complex in the North’s border city of Gaeseong. The factory park had been shuttered since early April.
In another conciliatory gesture, North Korea has agreed to resume programs to temporarily reunite separated family members on both sides of the border.