BEIJING — After a day of diplomatic talks with Secretary of State John F. Kerry on Saturday, Chinese authorities claimed they are committed to working “peacefully” toward the goal of getting North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons.
“We maintain that the issue should be handled and resolved peacefully through dialogue and consultation,” China’s State Councilor Yang Jiechi said on Saturday evening in Beijing while sitting beside Mr. Kerry at a restaurant in the Chinese Capitol.
“To promptly address the Korean nuclear issue serves the common interests of all parties,” said Mr. Yang. “It is also the shared responsibility of all parties.”
The remarks created the appearance of fresh unity between Beijing and Washington, where the Obama administration hoped that Mr. Kerry would be able to convince Chinese leaders to take a more active role in encouraging North Korea to tone down its recent nuclear threats.
Mr. Yang, however, took care to avoid making any specific commitments with regard to actions China is willing to take to pressure the North Korean military or the nation’s 28-year-old leader Kim Jong-un to give up the nation’s nuclear arsenal and back away from the recent wave of antagonistic posturing.
Instead, Mr. Yang said China is committed to “advancing the de-nuclearization process on the peninsula” and to working with “relevant parties, including the United States” toward promoting a new round of so-called “six party talks” on North Korea.
The multi-nation talks, which included representatives from China, the United States, Japan, Russia and North Korea have broken down during recent years amidst North Korean belligerence over its nuclear program.
In appearing with Mr. Kerry Saturday, Mr. Yang said China remains committed to goals set out in the landmark Sept. 19, 2005 joint statement of the six party talks, which asserted outright that North Korea had “committed to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs.”
Mr. Yang made the comments moments after Mr. Kerry said Washington also desires to see through the “goal” of the 2005 statement. The secretary of state said China and the United States had agreed Saturday to “have further discussions, to bear down very quickly, with great specificity on exactly how we will accomplish this goal.”
Later on Saturday night, Mr. Kerry said he believed it had been an “extremely constructive and positive day” of meetings in Beijing.
But it was not entirely clear whether Chinese authorities had actually agreed to do anything truly new with regard to their posture toward North Korea and the possibility that Pyongyang may move to make either a test or targeted missile launch.
“We don’t want to get into … some kind of confrontational language here,” he said. “There’s been enough of that.”
“China and the United States today recommitted ourselves to find a peaceful solution and we say to Kim Jong-un and to the government of [North Korea] that they have an obvious choice here, which is to join us in the effort to try to find a negotiated resolution.”
Foreign policy insiders say China’s potential leverage over Pyongyang is rooted in trade and military ties that Beijing has quietly maintained with its smaller neighbor — all while the international community has sought to isolate North Korea through the imposition of U.N. sanctions aimed at containing its nuclear threat.