BOTH the United States and South Korea declared on Friday they are working towards a “peaceful” resolution to tensions with North Korea, vowing to continue pressuring Kim Jong Un’s regime towards denuclearisation.
South Korea’s special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs Lee Do-hoon and his American counterpart Joseph Yun met in South Korea on Friday, at the sidelines of an international conference on disarmament co-hosted by the United Nations.
“There is no doubt that both of the presidents want to find a peaceful way in regard to North Korea’s nuclear issue. So we discussed them and we agreed the pressure campaign has to be a central element,” said Yun as quoted by South Korea’s state news agency Yonhap.
The high-level meeting came after US President Donald Trump met South Korea’s Moon Jae-in during a bilateral summit in Seoul.
Trump has just completed a fortnight-long visit to South Korea, Southeast Asia and China.
Chinese state newspaper the Global Times reported on Wednesday that President Xi Jinping was sending senior Communist Party (CPC) officials to North Korea on Friday with the purpose of briefing Pyongyang on its 19th CPC National Congress.
“The biggest divergence in party-to-party relations between China and North Korea is the nuclear issue, and we hope that this visit could narrow the divergence by reaching some consensus such as having dialogues on the dual-track approach,” said Lü Chao, a researcher on North Korea at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, as quoted by the Global Times.
Yun said, “China, of course, has a big role to play on Northeast Asia security issues. I hope, as China has done within the (United Nations Security Council) and elsewhere, it regards the denuclearisation as a critical goal. We do hope that special envoy will forward that goal.”
On Thursday night, Trump praised the Chinese government’s as a “big move” via Twitter.
China is sending an Envoy and Delegation to North Korea – A big move, we'll see what happens!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 16, 2017
Infamous for lashing out at his enemies on Twitter – particularly North Korea – Trump had again attacked Kim on Saturday during a visit to Vietnam for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Vietnam.
“Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me ‘old,’ when I would NEVER call him ‘short and fat?’ Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend – and maybe someday that will happen!” he tweeted.
Trump has for months traded insults and threats with Kim as North Korea races toward its goal of developing a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the United States, something the president has vowed to prevent.
Freeze for freeze
China said on Thursday a “dual suspension” proposal to handle North Korea was still the best option, after Trump said he and Xi had rejected a “freeze for freeze” agreement.
China and Russia have proposed that the United States and South Korea stop major military exercises in exchange for North Korea halting its weapons programs.
Beijing formally calls the idea the “dual suspension” proposal. Speaking upon his return from Asia on Wednesday, Trump said he and Xi had agreed that they would not accept a “freeze for freeze” idea, which China’s foreign minister announced in March.
Asked how China understood Trump‘s remarks and whether he agreed with the characterisation of what Trump said he agreed to with Xi, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said only through talks that addressed all sides’ legitimate security concerns could there be a peaceful resolution.
“We believe that the ‘dual suspension’ proposal is the most feasible, fair and sensible plan in the present situation,” Geng told a daily news briefing.
“Not only can it relieve the present tense situation, it can also resolve all parties most pressing security concerns, and provide an opportunity and create conditions to resume talks, and find a breakthrough point to get out of trouble,” he added.
The “dual suspension” is just a first step and not the end point, Geng added.
“We hope that all sides can conscientiously treat and proactively consider China’s proposal, and at the same time we welcome relevant parties to put forward proposals that can benefit the promotion of a peaceful resolution for the peninsula nuclear issue.”
Asked at a regular briefing if Trump stood by his remarks as to what he had agreed with Xi, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders on Thursday replied: “Both sides made their positions clear. They are different, but we agreed that there are going to be different positions and therefore it’s not going to move forward.”
North Korea has said it needs to develop its weapons to protect itself from what it sees as US military aggression. It also sees US-South Korean military exercises as joint preparations for invasion.
South Korea and US, which has about 28,000 troops based in South Korea, say their exercises are “defensive in nature.”
Additional reporting by Reuters