South Korea, the United States and China have been seeking for "various options" to resume long-stalled nuclear talks with North Korea, Seoul's chief nuclear envoy said Tuesday, but he declined to comment on prospects for a resumption of talks with the North.
Hwang Joon-kook, South Korea's chief envoy for the six-nation talks, also said the three nations would not ease pressure on North Korea until it shows a "practical progress" in taking denuclearization steps before any resumption of nuclear talks can take place.
"South Korea, the U.S. and China have been seeking for various options to resume a meaningful dialogue on denuclearization (with North Korea)," Hwang told Yonhap News Agency upon his arrival at the Beijing airport, ahead of a bilateral meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Wu Dawei.
"The meaningful dialogue means that it must produce a practical progress in denuclearizing North Korea and preventing North Korea from advancing its nuclear capability," Hwang said.
Asked about prospects for renewed nuclear talks with North Korea at this stage, however, Hwang replied, "I can't comment on that."
Hwang began talks with Wu on Tuesday afternoon, according to South Korean diplomats. It follows his bilateral meeting in Washington with Glyn Davies, the U.S. envoy on North Korea, last week.
In a regular press briefing, China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters that Hwang and Wu "will exchange views on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue and a resumption of the six-party talks."
South Korean diplomats in Beijing said the Tuesday talks between Hwang and Wu are aimed at fine-tuning their policy coordination to resume the six-party talks before Chinese President Xi Jinping visits South Korea. Xi has been widely expected to visit South Korea late this month or early next month, during which North Korea's nuclear weapons program will be high on the agenda.
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)