BEIJING -- The top nuclear envoys of South Korea and China held talks Friday to try to breathe new life into long-stalled multilateral talks aimed at ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, following the North's recent threat of a "new form" of nuclear test.
Hwang Joon-kook, Seoul's chief envoy to the six-party talks that also involve the United States, North Korea, Russia and Japan, met with his Chinese counterpart, Wu Dawei, in Beijing. The meeting came on the heels of three-way talks with the U.S. and Japan in Washington earlier this week.
The Beijing talks also came as South Korean officials voiced "flexibility" in its preconditions for North Korea before resumption of the talks could take place, indicating that they could lower the bar for North Korea to sit down at the negotiating table.
Fresh diplomatic moves have been under way to resume the six-party forum dormant since late 2008. During this week's trilateral meeting in Washington, the top nuclear envoys of South Korea, the U.S. and Japan agreed to lower the bar for North Korea to rejoin the six-party forum, Seoul officials say.
Asked about what flexibility might mean, Hwang replied that any moves to resume the six-nation talks will be "only possible if there is meaningful dialogue to make practical progress in denuclearizing North Korea and preventing the North from adding to its nuclear capability."
Upon his arrival at the Beijing Capital International Airport earlier in the day, Hwang said he and Wu will discuss "whether such meaningful dialogue could take place."
Hwang described the current situation on the Korean Peninsula as "grave," saying "closer and strategic cooperation" is essential to prevent further North Korean provocations.
After showing signs of diplomacy, North Korea has again turned hostile in recent weeks, conducting live-fire drills near the tense Yellow Sea border with South Korea and warning of a "new form" of nuclear test.
Since its third nuclear test in February last year, North Korea has repeatedly expressed its willingness to reopen the six-party talks "without preconditions," but Seoul and Washington have demanded Pyongyang demonstrate its sincerity first by taking steps toward denuclearization.
China has been more accommodating toward North Korea, urging South Korea and the U.S. to lower the bar for talks. (Yonhap)