The top diplomats of North Korea and China held a rare meeting in Myanmar on Sunday where they discussed bilateral relations and "issues of common concern,"
China's foreign ministry said, amid frayed ties over the North's defiant pursuit of nuclear weapons.
The meeting between North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong and his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, took place on the sidelines of a regional security dialogue in the Myanmar capital of Naypyitaw, the Chinese ministry said in a brief statement posted on its website late Sunday.
The one-sentence statement stopped short of giving details of the meeting between Ri and Wang, saying the two sides held "an in-depth exchange of views on bilateral relations and issues of common concern."
The Sunday talks came as China, North Korea's last remaining patron, is stepping up its role in addressing the North's nuclear challenge.
Early last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited South Korea, becoming the first sitting Chinese leader in more than two decades to visit Seoul before traveling to Pyongyang. Traditionally, top Chinese leaders visit Pyongyang before Seoul.
China fought on the North's side against South Korea and the U.S.-led U.N. forces in the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.
China is widely believed to have significant leverage to help persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons programs, but many analysts believe that Beijing won't support any tougher measures against Pyongyang due to concerns that pushing the North too hard may lead to its collapse and hurt China's own national interests.
The ASEAN Regional Forum in Myanmar has brought together top diplomats of nations participating in the long-stalled six-way talks -- the two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan. The ASEAN forum provides a rare chance for the six-party members to hold direct talks on the North's nuclear standoff.
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri told the forum that Pyongyang has no intention of giving up its nuclear weapons program, reiterating the North's long-standing stance of justifying its nuclear ambition against what it calls the U.S. "hostile policy" against the reclusive country.
Ri was quoted by senior North Korean diplomat Choe Myung-nam as saying at the forum on Sunday, "Possessing nuclear (weapons) was not our choice. For us, nuclear is a deterrence to prevent a war."
North Korea, which had conducted three nuclear tests since 2006, has threatened to carry out a "new form" of nuclear test since early this year.
Asked about whether the North will conduct its fourth nuclear test, Choe replied, "We will step up efforts to strengthen our nuclear deterrence to cope with nuclear threats and blackmail from the U.S. In this regard, we have the rights to take any action." (Yonhap)