Report: China wants N Korea focus on economy

Message conveyed to Kim Jong-un's envoy during apparent fence-mending visit against backdrop of tensions on peninsula.

    Report: China wants N Korea focus on economy
    Experts have said the three-day visit was an attempt by North Korea to mend fences with China [Reuters]

    A North Korean envoy to China, sent by the country’s leader last month, has been told to focus on its economy rather than increase regional tensions, according to Reuters news agency.

    The news agency cited an unnamed source in a report on Tuesday stating that Kim Jong-un had sent Choe Ryong-hae, vice chairman of the country’s top military body.

    "[North] Korea has not mellowed," said the source, who apparently did not attend the meetings but has since spoken to both sides to which he has regular access.

    Experts have said the three-day visit was an attempt by North Korea to mend fences with its only major diplomatic ally, which has been critical of the country.

    After the meetings, in which Choe eventually held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, North Korea promised to take "positive steps for peace" while China repeated its mantra of wanting "calm and restraint" on the Korean peninsula.

    China tried to convince North Korea to stop its nuclear and missile tests, which "put China in a difficult position and are not conducive to [North] Korea", said the source.

    China, which is North Korea’s biggest trade partner and aid donor, advised North Korea to focus on rebuilding its ruined economy instead, which is something it has said before.

    A former senior US official said China's insistence that North Korea halt testing would be in line with recent signs it was running out of patience with North Korea.

    "What I've heard from talking to Chinese officials and American officials who are talking to them is that top Chinese officials now emphasise that the principal goal is to terminate the nuclear weapons programme of North Korea," the ex-official said.

    Reuters news agency also reported that Choe also presented a “terse” hand-written letter from the North Korean leader to Xi Jinping, the Chinese Premier.

    China has repeatedly urged North Korea to return to the so-called six-party talks, which are aimed at getting the North to give up its nuclear weapons.

    Choe told the Chinese that the six-party talk format did not work. In 2009, North Korea said it would never return to the talks, which also included South Korea, the US, Japan and Russia.

    North Korea would instead seek bilateral talks with the various parties first, said the source, without elaborating.

    Choe added that abandoning its nuclear-weapons programme could not be a prerequisite for talks.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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