South Korean President Park Geun-hye said world powers should find a way to restart long-stalled talks on North Korea's nuclear program, even if it means Pyongyang negotiators are not present.
"Although it is not an easy matter, relevant parties should find various and creative approaches, such as trying five-party talks excluding North Korea," Park said Friday during a meeting with top government officials in Seoul.
Park also expressed frustration with the current mechanism of six-party talks, which have had the aim of getting North Korea to give up its nuclear program, but which have not been held in seven years.
"In the past, six-party talks had some usefulness as a framework to resolve North Korean nuclear issues via dialogue," she said. "However, the talks have not been held for a while. Even if the talks open up, but don't help denuclearize North Korea, the question of effectiveness will be brought up."
The six-party talks – involving North Korea, South Korea, the United States, China, Japan and Russia – started in 2003. North Korea walked out of the talks in 2009, frustrated at world powers who had imposed sanctions following Pyongyang's long-range rocket test.
Shortly afterwards, the North conducted its second nuclear test. It has since conducted two more nuclear tests, including one earlier this month that prompted fresh concerns about its nuclear advances.
North Korea has repeatedly said it is open to restarting the talks, but the U.S. has insisted Pyongyang must first agree to abandon its nuclear program before the talks can proceed.
After each nuclear test, Western powers have imposed punishing sanctions on North Korea. China, North Korea's main ally, will play a huge role in determining whether the Security Council can pass a new round of tough sanctions on the North, Park said.
"I expect China to take an effective measure that can make North Korea realize the development of nuclear weapons is futile and that it should join the international community like Iran has," she said.
Reacting to Park's proposal, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei called for the resumption of "six-party talks at an early date" in order to help denuclearize the Korean peninsula as soon as possible.
Washington officials yet to comment on the proposal.