Biegun seeks stronger Chinese cooperation in resuming nuke talks with N.K.

BEIJING-- Top U.S. nuclear negotiator Stephen Biegun sought stronger Chinese cooperation in resuming dialogue with North Korea on Friday, the last day of his trip to Beijing, amid concerns that Pyongyang could veer toward a provocative tack in protest over the deadlocked nuclear talks.

Following visits to South Korea and Japan, the U.S. special representative for North Korea, now confirmed as deputy secretary of state, made an unscheduled visit to China on Thursday, apparently to demand Beijing exert its influence to bring Pyongyang back to dialogue.

His trip also appeared aimed at urging China not to break ranks and weaken the global sanctions regime against the North, as Beijing and Moscow proposed a draft U.N. resolution this week to call for partial sanctions relief.

In Seoul on Monday, Biegun made an emphatic public overture for talks with the North, but Pyongyang has yet to respond. He remains open to dialogue with the communist state while he is in Asia.

On the first day of his trip to China, Biegun met Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui to discuss ways to make progress in the efforts to denuclearize the North.

Luo reportedly proposed that the U.S. take conciliatory gestures, such as partial sanctions relief, to explore a diplomatic and political solution to the North's nuclear quandary. He also appeared to have renewed Beijing's call for a phased, simultaneous denuclearization process rather than a comprehensive, big-deal approach.

In a press release following the talks between Biegun and Luo, China's foreign ministry said that it hopes the U.S. and the North resume dialogue as soon as possible to "actively build trust and effectively handle their dispute."

Biegun appeared to have used the talks to stress the importance of sustaining sanctions pressure on the North, which the U.S. sees a key lever to bring the recalcitrant regime back to the dialogue table and keep it on the denuclearization track.

His high-profile Asia swing came as the North has been threatening to take a "new way" if the U.S. does not make concessions for progress in the stalemated nuclear negotiations before its Pyongyang's year-end deadline.

Pyongyang has sent out cryptic signals that it could engage in provocative acts should the deadline be missed. It carried out two apparent rocket engine tests at its west coast satellite launch site this month, sparking worries that it could fire off a long-range rocket disguised as a peaceful space development activity.

While in Beijing, speculation continued that senior North Korean officials, such as First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui, could fly to Beijing for possible talks with Biegun, or Biegun could fly to Pyongyang. But no signs of such moves have been detected.

The U.S. and the North last held working-level talks in Sweden in October. But the meeting yielded little progress, with the North accusing the U.S. of having come to the negotiating table "empty-handed."

Since then, Pyongyang has toughened its demands, telling the U.S. to remove "all obstacles" that threaten the security of the North and hamper its development. The demands are seen as calls for sanctions relief and security assurances.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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