A North Korean envoy has told China's president that his reclusive country was willing to take "positive actions" to ensure peace and stability on the Korean peninsula, as China steps up diplomatic efforts to bring Pyongyang back to talks.
But Choe Ryong-hae, a special envoy of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, made no offer to abandon North Korea's nuclear programme on Friday. The United States insists North Korea takes meaningful steps on denuclearisation before there can be dialogue.
Choe met Chinese officials, including President Xi Jinping, in the highest-ranking visit by an official from Pyongyang in about six months.
Chinese state media said Choe presented a hand-written letter from Kim to Xi at Beijing's Great Hall of the People.
Media provided no details of its contents.
"North Korea is willing to make joint efforts with all parties to appropriately resolve related issues through multilateral dialogue and consultations like the six-party talks, and maintain peace and stability on the peninsula," the official Xinhua news service cited Choe as telling Xi.
"To this end, North Korea is willing to take positive actions," Choe added.
Six party talks
Xi told Choe that the denuclearisation of the peninsula was an aspiration of all peoples and an inevitable trend, saying problems should be resolved through talks.
"China hopes all sides exercise calm and restraint, push for a lessening of tensions, restart the six-party talks process and make unremitting efforts ... for long-lasting peace and stability," Xi said.
China has repeatedly urged North Korea to return to the so-called six party talks process, aimed at denuclearisation.
The United States and its allies believe the North violated a 2005 aid-for-denuclearisation deal by conducting a nuclear test in 2006 and pursuing a uranium enrichment programme that would give it a second path to a nuclear weapon in addition to its plutonium-based programme.
The six-party aid-for-disarmament talks, involving the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, Russia and host China, collapsed in 2008 when the North walked away from the deal.
China, North Korea's only real ally, has been pushing for a return to talks after weeks of bellicose words from Pyongyang following new United Nations sanctions after the North's third nuclear test in February.
Russia welcomed North Korea's declaration of readiness to return to talks and said it deserved a "a positive assessment", the Interfax news agency quoted Russian Foreign Ministry special envoy Grigory Logvinov as saying.
China has looked on nervously at the ratcheting up of tension, fearful a misstep could plunge the peninsula into war which could envelop northeastern China.