China says informal talks may be the way to get North Korea to return to negotiations on its nuclear programs. Officials in Beijing made the proposal this week in an effort to salvage the stalled process.
Chinese officials offered no details of their proposal for informal talks. Reports said they forwarded the proposal to all of the nations involved in formal six-party talks aimed at limiting North Korean nuclear programs. At a regular briefing Tuesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu suggested China is eager to jump-start the stalled negotiations.
"Currently the Chinese side is making consultations with other parties concerned so as to find a way to promote the process of the six-party talks and to find a helpful way to talk about the concerns of all parties," she said.
The talks involve China, Japan, North and South Korea, Russia and the United States and have been under way for three years. Little progress has been made in getting North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions. Negotiations have been stalled in recent months with North Korean officials refusing to return to the talks. The North is angry over sanctions imposed by the United States over the North's alleged money laundering and counterfeiting activities.
North Korea has triggered renewed concern recently after intelligence reports said Pyongyang might be preparing to test-fire a long-range ballistic missile. The United States and others have warned North Korea not to do so. U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns this week cautioned Pyongyang to avoid any type of provocative activity, saying a test would be a "profoundly unwise step."
China's suggestion of informal talks to restart the six-party process is part of a flurry of diplomatic activity. South Korea's national security advisor traveled to Washington Tuesday for meetings with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and others, and officials in Seoul were quoted as saying the North Korean nuclear issue would be discussed.
The topic of the negotiations may also come up next week, when Chinese Vice Premier Hui Liangyu heads to Pyongyang to mark the 45th anniversary of a Sino-North Korean friendship treaty.