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(LEAD) S. Korea, China to launch 'two-plus-two' security talks by year-end

2013/10/21 17:17

(ATTN: ADDS quote, details in paras 5-6)

BEIJING, Oct. 21 (Yonhap) -- Senior diplomats and defense officials from South Korea and China are planning to launch a so-called two-plus-two consultative body by the end of this year to step up bilateral cooperation in the face of growing nuclear threats from North Korea, a diplomatic source said Monday.

Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi is scheduled to visit South Korea sometime next month to discuss the matter and other pending issues with Kim Jang-soo, the top security adviser to President Park Geun-hye, the South Korean diplomatic source said on the condition of anonymity.

The new consultative body between South Korea and China will bring together director-level diplomats and deputy director-level defense officials from the two sides, the source said.

"North Korea's nuclear issue will top the agenda during the meeting of security consultative committee, which is based on a two-plus-two format," the source said, adding that it would be the first time for Seoul and Beijing to hold such talks involving both diplomatic and defense officials.

Kim and Yang are "also expected to discuss the issue of establishing a regular dialogue channel between the South Korean presidential office and the Chinese state council," the source said.

This week, Kim will make a four-day visit to Washington for talks with his American counterparts on North Korea and other key bilateral issues.

The move comes at a time when the United States has been keeping up its pressure on China to increase its influence on North Korea to have it give up its nuclear weapons program. The U.S. has also been intensifying cooperation with its two Northeast Asian allies: South Korea and Japan, which live inside the North's nuclear shadow.

North Korea enshrined its nuclear status in its constitution after conducting its third and most successful nuclear test in February. While China has become increasingly frustrated with the North's behaviors, Beijing's top priority is still focused on stability on the Korean Peninsula, rather than denuclearization of it.

Though China has been keen to restart multilateral talks aimed at disarming North Korea, South Korea and the U.S. have insisted that a new round of the six-party talks will not take place unless the North demonstrates its seriousness about denuclearization through concrete actions.

The off-and-on six-party dialogue that involves the two Koreas, China, the U.S., Japan and Russia has been stalled since late 2008.