(2nd LD) China proposes holding informal six-party meeting on N. Korea
(ATTN: ADDS Chinese foreign ministry spokesman's quotes in paras 5-6; INCORPORATES China-nuclear talks; AMENDS headline)
BEIJING, Sept. 5 (Yonhap) -- China has proposed holding an informal meeting this month with senior officials from six nations involving the long-stalled negotiations aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear weapons program, a diplomatic source said Thursday.
The proposal was made in August before China's chief nuclear envoy, Wu Dawei, held talks in Pyongyang last week with his North Korean counterpart, Kim Kye-gwan, the source said on the condition of anonymity, in another indication Beijing is stepping up its efforts to re-start the six-party talks.
Organized by the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS), affiliated with China's foreign ministry, the proposed date of Sept. 18 for the so-called Track 1.5 meeting in Beijing coincides with the eighth anniversary of a 2005 agreement when the six nations achieved their first breakthrough in resolving the North's nuclear standoff during the multilateral dialogue.
"The Chinese side offered a Track 1.5 meeting with senior diplomats from the six-party member states, including North Korea in the wake of the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 19 Joint Declaration," the source said, referring to the 2005 agreement.
China's foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei confirmed that the CIIS will "hold a seminar on Sept. 18 to review the past course of the six-party talks."
During a regular press briefing on Thursday, Hong said the Beijing seminar was organized to "celebrate the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 19 Joint Declaration as well as the 10th anniversary of the six-party talks." He declined to say who would join the meeting.
During the talks between Wu and Kim in Pyongyang, North Korea agreed to send its nuclear envoy, Ri Yong-ho, to the proposed meeting, according to the source.
China has also asked South Korea, the U.S. and Japan to send their chief nuclear negotiators to the informal six-party talks, but the three nations were cold to the Chinese proposal because North Korea has shown no signs of giving up its nuclear ambitions, the source said.
"It is uncertain whether South Korea, the U.S. and Japan would send their chief nuclear envoys to the proposed meeting in Beijing," the source said.
"At stake is whether North Korea would change its stance on denuclearization, but there are no such signs," the source said. "Under the circumstance, it is difficult for the Chinese efforts to make a significant achievement."
Hong, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, urged nations to resume the six-party talks.
"The six-party talks remain an important platform for the realization of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and also an important mechanism for the improvement of relations between relevant parties," Hong said.
"We hope that our relevant parties will stick to the six-party talks and solve relevant issues through dialogue," Hong said.
North Korea, which has conducted three nuclear tests since 2006, walked out of the six-party talks that also involve South Korea, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia in early 2009. Following its third nuclear test in February this year, Pyongyang has said its nuclear program is not negotiable.
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula, however, have been eased in recent months as North Korea has reached out to Seoul and Washington, expressing its willingness to rejoin the six-party talks.
South Korea, the U.S. and Japan have called on North Korea to demonstrate its seriousness about denuclearizing through concrete action as a precondition to resuming the six-party dialogue with them.
North Korea has expressed its willingness to rejoin the six-party talks but has shown no signs of accepting such conditions set by Seoul and Washington. Instead, North Korea has insisted on being recognized as a nuclear power.