The chief nuclear envoys of South Korea and China will hold talks in Beijing this week to discuss ways to resume long-stalled negotiations aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear weapons program, Seoul officials said Monday, ahead of a widely-anticipated visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Seoul later this month.
Hwang Joon-kook, Seoul's chief envoy for the six-party talks, will meet his Chinese counterpart, Wu Dawei, during his two-day visit starting Tuesday, South Korea's foreign ministry said in a statement. It follows Hwang's talks in Washington with Glyn Davies, the U.S. envoy on North Korea, last week.
Hwang and Wu will "hold a wide-ranging consultation on the overall situation of the Korean Peninsula, including how to deal with the North Korean nuclear issue in the future," the ministry said in the statement.
Earlier in the day, a diplomatic source in Beijing said this week's talks between Hwang and Wu are aimed at discussing ways to resume the six-party talks before Xi visits South Korea. Xi has been widely expected to visit South Korea late this month, during which North Korea's nuclear weapons program will be high on the agenda.
"Ahead of a state visit by President Xi Jinping to South Korea, Hwang and Wu are expected to fine-tune the agenda on North Korea's nuclear issue," the source said on condition of anonymity.
North Korea has warned that it would not rule out carrying out "a new form of nuclear test" and South Korea and the U.S. have called on China to take a greater role in reining in the North's unpredictable regime.
In Washington last week, Hwang told reporters that South Korea, the U.S. and China have been discussing about "appropriate conditions" to resume nuclear talks with North Korea.
North Korea conducted its third nuclear test early last year, Since then, Pyongyang has repeatedly expressed its willingness to reopen the six-party talks "without preconditions."
South Korea and the U.S. have maintained that North Korea must first demonstrate its sincerity toward denuclearization before the disarmament-for-aid talks can resume. China, however, has been more accommodating toward North Korea, urging South Korea and the U.S. to lower their bar for talks.
The six-party forum, which includes the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan, has been dormant since late 2008. (Yonhap)