Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo holds talks with Secretary of State Colin Powell and other Bush administration officials Friday on efforts to revive talks on North Korea's nuclear program. The Chinese envoy will report on his mission to Pyongyang earlier this week.
The visit of the Chinese envoy reflects intensifying diplomacy on the North Korean nuclear crisis amid indications from U.S. officials that Pyongyang may have dropped its insistence on discussing the matter only in bilateral talks with the United States.
China hosted a three-way meeting with the United States and North Korea in Beijing in April. And on the eve of Mr. Dai's talks in Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the Bush administration is willing to take part in another tri-partite round, though he said it still wants to broaden the process to include South Korea and Japan.
"At this moment, it's time to move to five-party talks, and that's a position we'll continue to press," he said. "We think the Japanese and South Koreans need to be there. We've explained many times why. That's where, in that kind of multi-lateral forum, is where these problems can be solved. What North Korea has done, and is doing, continues to be an affront to the entire region and indeed the entire world. We need to solve the problems there, but you also need to say that that's the kind of forum which can deal with the prospects that North Korea would like in the world."
A senior official here said while the United States rejects one-on-one talks with Pyongyang, nothing in a three-way, or five-way format, would prevent the two parties from fully stating their views directly to each other.
The Bush administration has said there should be no reward, diplomatic or otherwise, to North Korea for violating its international nuclear agreements since last year.
But it has also held out the prospect of aid and other benefits if North Korea verifiably dismantled its nuclear program.
The Chinese envoy, Mr. Dai, met North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il and other senior officials in a four-day visit to Pyongyang that ended Tuesday.
Secretary of State Powell reviewed the mission in a telephone talk with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing Tuesday, who agreed to send his deputy to Washington for more extensive briefings.
Mr. Dai is also expected to meet officials at the White House, where presidential spokesman Scott McClellan Thursday welcomed China's diplomatic role and said the administration is hopeful for progress toward a de-nuclearized Korean peninsula.