Hopes for Korean nuclear talks rise after Kim’s China visit

Beijing: A secretive visit by North Korean leader Kim-Jong Unto Beijing has raised hopes for international talks on ending Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme. North Korea declared last year that it had a “state nuclear force,” and currently finds itself under some of the strictest sanctions ever imposed by the United Nations due to its nuclear and missile tests.
But Pyongyang has in recent months opened up to talks: plans are in place for a summit between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-In in April, and possibly an unprecedented meeting between Kim and US President Donald Trump by May.
Kim’s 4-day visit to Beijing —- only confirmed on Wednesday — was his first known trip outside North Korea as leader.
“It is our consistent stand to be committed to denuclearisation on the [Korean] Peninsula, in accordance with the will of late president Kim Il-Sung and late General Secretary Kim Jong-Il,” Kim told Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit, according to the Xinhua news agency.
Denuclearisation could be achieved “if South Korea and the United States respond to our efforts with goodwill, create an atmosphere of peace and stability, while taking… measures for the realisation of peace,” the North Korean leader said.
China appreciated the “important efforts” made by North Korea, Xi said.
The South Korean government said it “hopes that the latest China visit by Chairman Kim, which came ahead of inter-Korean and North-United States summits, will contribute to denuclearising and building peace on the Korean Peninsula,” according to Yonhap news agency.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Kim’s visit was evidence that Washington’s “campaign of maximum pressure is creating the appropriate atmosphere for talks with North Korea.”
Trump followed up on Twitter early on Wednesday by expressing his optimism about denuclearisation efforts. “Now there is a good chance that Kim Jong-Un will do what is right for his people and for humanity,” he wrote.
“Look forward to our meeting!” he added. “In the meantime, and unfortunately, maximum sanctions and pressure must be maintained at all cost!”
“I think we’re in a situation in which the North Korean side is seeking to talk,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in Tokyo.
Abe said he would seek a “detailed briefing” from China on the Kim-Xi talks.
During his visit to China, which lasted from Sunday to Wednesday, Kim and his wife Ri Sol-Ju attended a welcoming banquet at the Great Hall of the People with Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan, according to Xinhua.
The visit was Kim’s first known trip outside of North Korea since the death of his father Kim Jong-Il in 2011 and was the first time he had met the Chinese leader. — dpa