Relations between North Korea and China are on the recovery track, helping dissuade Pyongyang from taking provocative acts, Beijing's top envoy in South Korea said Thursday.
"China and North Korea are engaging in more lively political exchanges, and their relations are improving to some extent," Ambassador Qiu Guohong said in a breakfast forum hosted by a group of Seoul National University graduates.
North Korea has neither fired a long-range rocket nor conducted another nuclear test recently, he pointed out, in part because of the improved mood, as well as international pressure.
In October, Liu Yunshan, a top Chinese communist party official, visited Pyongyang to attend a military parade to commemorate a key anniversary. A month earlier, the North's leader Kim Jong-un sent Choe Ryong-hae, one of his closest aides, to a similar event in Beijing.
Speculation has been widespread that the communist allies are mending ties notably strained since the North's nuclear test in early 2013. But it's quite unusual for a senior Chinese diplomat to confirm the mood in public.
China is seeking a "normal" relationship with North Korea, Qiu said, adding his country is supportive of the denuclearization of the peninsula and reunification.
The six-party nuclear talks remain a viable option despite a drawn-out suspension, he stressed. The often-troubled process brings together the two Koreas, China, the United States, Japan and Russia.
Some of the participating nations should lower the bar for the resumption of the negotiations, the ambassador said without naming them.
The North demands nuclear talks with no preconditions, but the U.S. says Pyongyang should first prove its seriousness on denuclearization through action.
"China's view is that starting dialogue is always better than no dialogue at all," Qiu said.
On the Seoul-Beijing relationship, he said, it's better than ever on the basis of mutual trust.
The veteran diplomat also dismissed concerns over a possible military conflict between China and the U.S. locked in escalated tension in the South China Sea.
"The two sides may have serious disputes on some issues due to differences in values and political systems," he said. "But there will never be a military clash. You don't have to worry about that."
He cited close economic and trade ties between the global powers. (Yonhap)