TOKYO/SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un told Chinese President Xi Jinping during talks in Beijing last week that he agreed to return to six-party talks on his nation’s nuclear programme and missile tests, the Nikkei newspaper said on Thursday.
Months of chill between Beijing and Pyongyang appeared to suddenly vanish during Kim’s secretive visit, with China saying that Kim had pledged his commitment to denuclearisation.
Quoting multiple sources connected to China and North Korea, the Nikkei said that, according to documents issued after Kim and Xi met, Kim told Xi that he agreed to resuming the six-party talks, which were last held in 2009.
North Korea declared the on-again, off-again talks dead at the time, blaming US aggression. The talks grouped the two Koreas, the United States, Russia, Japan and host China.
The sources said it was also possible that Kim could convey his willingness to resume the talks to US President Donald Trump at a summit set to take place in May, but that it was far from clear if that meant the talks would actually resume.
Chinese officials were not immediately able to comment.
China has traditionally been secretive North Korea’s closest ally, though ties have been frayed by Kim’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and missiles and Beijing’s backing of tough UN sanctions in response.
North Korea has said in previous talks that it could consider giving up its nuclear arsenal if the United States removed its troops from South Korea and withdrew its so-called nuclear umbrella of deterrence from South Korea and Japan.
Meanwhile, officials from North and South Korea discussed protocol headaches and other logistics of a rare summit later this month, which will see Kim Jong Un become the first North Korean leader to set foot in the South since the end of the Korean War.
Kim and the South’s president Moon Jae-in are due to meet on April 27 at the South’s side of the demilitarized zone for the landmark inter-Korean summit.
Thursday’s working-level meeting was aimed at ironing out the protocols, security measures and media coverage of the summit, the South’s presidential office said.
“We had sincere talks for four hours straight”, said Kwun Hyuk-ki, one of the five-member South Korean delegation to the talks.
He declined to give details, saying the two sides will meet again for further discussions on a date yet to be fixed.
This month’s summit will be only the third of its kind since the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice.
It is set to take place at the South’s Peace House in the border truce village of Panmunjom, the same building in which Thursday’s meeting was held.
Attention has been particularly focused on details of how Kim should be received when he crosses the military demarcation line to the South.