China has told North Korea that it will "never allow war or chaos" on the Korean Peninsula, in a clear warning against the North's unpredictable leadership and pursuit of nuclear weapons, while Pyongyang reiterated that denuclearization of the peninsula was a "dying wish" of its late leader Kim Jong-il.
China's Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin, who has been on a four-day visit to North Korea since Monday, and the North's top diplomats, including Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun and top nuclear envoy Ri Yong-ho, exchanged such remarks during meetings in Pyongyang, the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement released late Wednesday.
Liu became the most senior Chinese official to visit North Korea since the high-profile purge and execution of leader Kim Jong-un's uncle about two months ago.
The remarks by Liu were an echo of previous comments by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who made similar remarks during talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry last week, but it appears to be the first time that a Chinese official publicly relayed the view to North Korea.
It is also rare for China to reveal details of such a diplomatic visit to North Korea before the visit ends.
"Liu Zhenmin stressed that China adheres to the goal of denuclearization of the peninsula, maintaining peace and stability on the peninsula and solving problems through dialogue and negotiation. China will never allow war or chaos on the peninsula," the Chinese statement said.
Liu also urged "all parties" to make efforts to "create conditions for an early resumption of the six-party talks," aimed at ending the North's nuclear program, according to the statement.
North Korea said the "denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is a dying wish" of late leader Kim Jong-il and Pyongyang is "willing to strengthen communication and coordination with China to defuse the situation and to promote best efforts to restart the six-party talks," it said.
The six-party dialogue, which involves the two Koreas, China, the U.S., Japan and Russia, has been dormant since late 2008. North Korea conducted its third and most powerful nuclear test last February, prompting the U.N. to slap tightened economic and arms sanctions on the North.
In another unusual move, Liu will visit South Korea via Beijing on Thursday, immediately after leaving the North, a South Korean government official told Yonhap News Agency, asking that he not be identified.
During his three-day stay in Seoul, Liu is scheduled to hold talks with his South Korean counterpart Lee Kyung-soo and Seoul's chief envoy to the six-party talks, Cho Tae-yong, among other government officials.
The visit is expected to be closely watched for any message Liu could bring from Pyongyang regarding the North's nuclear issue or inter-Korean relations.
Liu's visit to North Korea came days after Kerry ended a two-day visit to Beijing last Friday, during which he met with President Xi Jinping and Foreign Minister Wang. The topics included North Korea and its nuclear programs, both sides said.
Kerry told reporters in Beijing that he "encouraged the Chinese to use every tool" to realize the goal of denuclearizing North Korea.
Asked whether he won a specific commitment from the Chinese side to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, Kerry replied, "They made it very clear that if the North doesn't comply and come to the table and be serious about talks and stop its program ... they are prepared to take additional steps in order to make sure that their policy is implemented."
China is asking the U.S. and other nations to resume the six-party talks with North Korea, but South Korea and the U.S. insist that Pyongyang first prove its sincerity for denuclearization through action.
The Dec. 13 execution of Jang Song-thaek, the once-powerful uncle of the North's young leader Kim Jong-un, has raised fears of possible instability in Kim's two-year-old leadership. It also appeared to put a brake on diplomatic efforts to reopen the six-nation talks.
Jang's dramatic downfall marked the biggest political upheaval since late 2011, when the North's young leader Kim took power following his father Kim Jong-il's death.
China, North Korea's key ally and economic lifeline, has been in a delicate position because Jang was considered a supporter of China-style reforms to revive the North's moribund economy and played an important role in dealing with economic projects with Beijing. (Yonhap)