North Korea’s chief nuclear negotiator, Kim Myong Gil, told reporters that after months of stalemate, the nuclear talks being held in Sweden with the US will not continue.
China and North Korea on Sunday vowed to continue strengthening their ties that have “stood the test of time”, hours after another squabble broke out between Pyongyang and Washington over the breakdown of their first nuclear talks in eight months.Chinese President Xi Jinping exchanged congratulatory messages with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on the 70th anniversary of diplomatic ties, according to state media in both countries, amid speculation that Kim will soon pay another visit to China.Observers said the communist neighbours’ warm exchanges and Kim’s possible visit showed Beijing and Pyongyang shared mutual interests and needed each other in their respective geopolitical plans to counter Washington – especially as they both come under pressure from US President Donald Trump.The two countries are said to be preparing for Kim to visit China as early as Sunday, which would be his fifth China trip since March last year and the first since Xi’s state visit to Pyongyang in June.But given Pyongyang’s denuclearisation negotiations with Washington on Saturday – which broke off in Stockholm without any breakthroughs – China and North Korea may need to reconsider or delay Kim’s visit to avoid criticism of Beijing’s role in the nuclear talks, one expert suggested.“The triangular ties between China, the United States and North Korea are of immense importance in finding a solution to the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula and Beijing’s role in the talks has always been sensitive, especially in the eyes of the US and its allies,” said Wang Sheng, a North Korea specialist at Jilin University.
“While China will almost certainly reiterate its stance to support continued dialogue and talks between Pyongyang and Washington, it may not be a good time for Kim’s high-profile visit just a day after their talks broke down, which would inevitably make it more difficult for China to play a mediating role,” he said.
On Sunday, Xi said the traditional friendship between the two countries had “stood the test of time and changes in the international landscape, growing stronger with the passage of time” and “made important and positive contributions to regional peace and stability”, according to Chinese state news agency Xinhua.
Citing his five recent meetings with Kim, Xi said bilateral ties had entered a new era and China would promote “long-term, healthy and stable” relations with North Korea.
Kim also hailed the special relationship between the two countries, which he said had been forged “at the cost of blood” and “weathered all tempests while sharing weal and woe with each other”, the Korean Central News Agency reported.
North Korean mouthpiece Rodong Sinmun meanwhile said in a commentary that bilateral ties with Beijing were “fully in accordance” with the interests of the two sides and would develop “regardless of the international situation”, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.
The lavish praise for Sino-North Korean relations comes as a group of working-level officials from North Korea are working with the Chinese side for a possible visit by Kim in the next few days, according to South Korea’s Dong-A Ilbo.
North Korea was among the first countries to recognise the People’s Republic of China
70 years ago and Xi has exchanged three messages with Kim in the past month, repeatedly pledging to move closer despite lingering grievances over Pyongyang’s nuclear brinkmanship.In the face of Trump’s increasingly antagonistic approach, the former communist allies – whose relationship deteriorated over Beijing’s support for the UN sanctions against the North, led by Washington – have set aside their differences to patch up ties in recent months.
Meanwhile, Pyongyang’s first nuclear talks with Washington in eight months ended on Saturday with the two sides offering conflicting assessments of their first formal discussion since the failed Trump-Kim summit in Vietnam in February.North Korea’s top negotiator Kim Myong-gil expressed his “great displeasure” with the discussions, blaming Washington and urging the Trump administration to correct its course and keep the talks alive or “forever close the door to dialogue”, according to Yonhap.
But the US State Department issued a rebuke hours later, claiming the negotiators had a “good discussion”. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement that the US had put forward “creative ideas” and “a number of new initiatives that would allow us to make progress in each of the four pillars of the Singapore joint statement”.
The two countries were not expected to “overcome a legacy of 70 years of war and hostility on the Korean peninsula through the course of a single Saturday”, she said, adding that Washington would return for more discussions with Pyongyang in two weeks at Sweden’s invitation.
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Wang from Jilin University said the breakdown of another round of talks had again laid bare the huge gap between the two sides over a long list of issues, from the definition of denuclearisation to their vastly different, often conflicting, demands and interests.
“It’s very likely that Washington has again rejected some of Pyongyang’s key demands in the recent talks, such as providing a security guarantee for Kim’s regime and a range of economic sanctions relief,” he said.
And with North Korea a polarising issue in the looming US presidential poll for Trump as he seeks to score diplomatic points for his re-election bid, it might become even more challenging for the two sides to narrow their differences.
“The breakdown of the talks should not be seen as a failure,” Wang said. “It simply underscores the difficulty of reaching any consensus in the nuclear talks, which still have a long way to go.”