beijing – Chinese negotiators are still trying to “narrow differences” over the agenda for future talks on North Korea’s nuclear program and believe it is still too early to discuss a date, a top Chinese diplomat said Friday.
The Foreign Ministry’s director-general for Asian affairs, Fu Ying, gave no details about remaining sticking points or whether North Korea had expressed a willingness to meet again.
But she said diplomats from the North, who criticized the last round of talks in August as pointless, have “never said they don’t want a peaceful solution.”
“I think it’s a bit early to think about a date. We need to work on the substance to narrow the differences,” Fu said.
The August talks, held in Beijing, concluded with no proposed date for another round, although participants had said they hoped talks would resume soon.
The lack of even a tentative date for the next round and Fu’s indication of disagreements over what they should discuss suggest continuing difﬁculties in convincing Pyongyang to agree to talk.
China, the North’s most important ally, convinced a skeptical North Korea to join in the August talks, which also included the US, Russia, South Korea and Japan.
North Korea has demanded one-on-one meetings with the US, a nonaggression treaty with Washington and humanitarian aid. Washington insists Pyongyang scrap the program before it will consider security guarantees and economic help.
Speculation has also centered on a visit to North Korea by the head of China’s nominal legislature, Wu Bangguo.
A South Korean ofﬁcial said the trip would take place this week, but neither China’s Foreign Ministry or the legislature have conﬁrmed it. Japanese media have reported the trip was canceled or delayed, possibly due to disagreements over the nuclear issue.
Fu said she had no information on when a visit by Wu might take place.