By Lee Chi-dong
BEIJING, Dec. 3 (Yonhap) — China’s “normal and stable” relations with North Korea will be conducive to a resolution to the nuclear issue and regional peace, a senior Chinese official said.
Hua Chunying, spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry, admitted that the bilateral relationship was frosty until recently due to a dispute over Pyongyang’s continued nuclear development but that it is warming up again.
With regard to the matter, she said, China has three unswerving principles–realizing the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, maintaining peace and stability on the peninsula and resolving it peacefully through dialogue.
North Korea is “displeased” with China’s constant call for denuclearization, Hua said in a roundtable meeting with a group of South Korean reporters earlier this week.
Pyongyang is also apparently upset about China’s close partnerships with South Korea.
In a clear sign that the two sides are mending fences after a few years of a strain, they exchanged high-level visits in September and October.
“Improved relations between China and North Korea are helpful to resolving the nuclear issue and resuming the six-party talks,” Hua said through a translator. “So, China will continue efforts for the normal and stable development of relations with North Korea.”
She stressed that Beijing will seek “friendly cooperative ties” with South and North Korea alike.
Hua added China is well aware of growing skepticism over the six-way talks aimed at ending the North’s nuclear program. The negotiations, hosted by China, have not been stalled since December 2008. The other participants are the United States, Japan and Russia.
Nonetheless, the six-way talks are still the “best and most effective platform” to handle all relevant issues and recover trust, she said.
China wants both the U.S. and North Korea to lower their guards, she said, citing Pyongyang’s nuclear test in 2013 and Washington’s regular joint military drills with Seoul.
“There is mutual distrust. In order to restart dialogue, parties concerned should make joint efforts,” she said, asking South Korea to play a more active role as well.
Hua held out expectations over the upcoming vice ministerial meeting between the two Koreas, which comes weeks after a rare event to have families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War briefly reunited.
“Such positive exchanges will be able to not only promote mutual trust and help improve bilateral relations but also contribute to creating conditions for the resumption of the six-way talks,” she said.
As to the agony of North Korean defectors, she made it clear that the Chinese government regards them as “economic migrants” illegally entering its territory.
China deals with them in accordance with its domestic law, related international law and humanitarian principles, she said.
Hua also expressed hope that Seoul and Beijing will speed up talks on the demarcation of their maritime boundaries.
The two sides have long struggled to resolve the issue of the submerged, Seoul-controlled Ieodo, a submerged reef that lies within the overlapping exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of South Korea and China.
Ieodo is located 149 kilometers southwest of Korea’s southernmost island of Marado and 247 kilometers northeast of the nearest Chinese island Tongdao. South Korea has scientific research facilities on Ieodo.
Seoul and Beijing plan to hold a new round of negotiations on their EEZs in mid-December.
Since Ieodo is not a “territory,” there is no territorial row between the two nations, Hua pointed out.
Once Beijing and Seoul resolve the matter in a “positive and constructive” way, it would be very helpful to the development of bilateral ties down the road, she emphasized.
The Korea Herald