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China’s chief nuclear envoy to visit Seoul next week

Chief nuclear envoys of China and South Korea will meet in Seoul next week, to discuss the possibility of resuming peace talks with North Korea possibly through an inter-Korean nuclear dialogue, the Foreign Ministry here said Friday.

The visit to South Korea by Wu Dawei comes after Beijing recently suggested nuclear envoys of the two Koreas meet to pave the way for larger-scale six-nation denuclearization talks, a proposal Seoul said it was ready to accept.

International efforts to achieve North Korea’s denuclearization have been stalled as tensions between the two divided Koreas spiked following last March’s torpedoing of a South Korean warship and the November bombarding of a South Korean border island.

While hoping to reopen dialogue with Seoul and the other five partners in the denuclearization talks, Pyongyang continues to deny involvement in the two deadly attacks. The six-party disarmament talks, involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia, have been stalled since the end of 2008.

Arriving in Seoul Tuesday, Wu will meet with his South Korean counterpart Wi Sung-lac and also visit Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, the ministry said.

“The two sides will assess the recent inter-Korean relations and North Korea’s current nuclear issues, and exchange views on future measures,” the ministry said.

The chief nuclear envoy of China met his counterpart from Pyongyang Kim Kye-kwan in Beijing earlier this month, agreeing to work on restarting the stalled aid-for-denuclearization talks at an early date, according to news reports.

The North, which refuses to add nuclear issues to the agenda of inter-Korean dialogue, has so far made no comment on whether it is willing to take up China’s offer on the issue. Pyongyang claims it does not have to discuss denuclearization with Seoul as its nuclear weapons are not aimed at attacking Seoul, but as a deterrence against the U.S.

While wary of further provocations by the North, Seoul and Washington appear willing to resume talks once Pyongyang provides proof of its denuclearization efforts and apologizes for the attacks.

By Shin Hae-in (hayney@heraldcorp.com)
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