Two South Korean envoys left for Washington yesterday to brief US officials on their landmark visit to Pyongyang and the North’s offer to talk about giving up its nuclear arsenal. Chung Eui-yong, head of Seoul’s National Security Office, will meet top US officials including National Security Adviser HR McMaster and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Yonhap news agency said.
 “We have a separate message from North Korea for the US,” Chung told journalists after revealing details of his meeting with the North’s leader Kim Jong-un. In a surprising turnaround, Kim said – as relayed by Seoul – that the North wanted to talk to the US and would not need nuclear weapons if the country’s security was guaranteed. 
 The two Koreas also agreed to hold a third inter-Korean summit in late April at the southern side of the border truce village of Panmunjom.
 Chung was accompanied by Suh Hoon, the chief of South Korea’s spy agency, the National Intelligence Service, who was also part of the delegation to Pyongyang.
 After Washington, Chung will later visit China and Russia to brief officials, while Suh will travel to Japan.
 The three countries, along with the US, are involved in six-party talks on ending North Korea’s nuclear drive which have stalled since 2008.
 US President Donald Trump welcomed this week’s developments as “very positive” and said the North’s talks offer appeared to be “sincere”, adding: “We’ll soon find out.” The Dong-A Ilbo newspaper quoted an unidentified senior official of the presidential Blue House saying that Kim had not made any specific “give-and-take style” demands concerning dialogue with the US. “He is apparently drawing a big picture,” the official was quoted as saying.
 “Kim has expressed his willingness to make his country a normal state” instead of a pariah state under sanctions, he added. Analyst Cheong Seong-chang of the Sejong Institute said the landmark visit to Pyongyang had provided “key momentum” to contain the North’s nuclear and missile threats, prevent conflict on the Korean peninsula and and start building trust. “However, the path toward denuclearisation will be very rough,” he said, forecasting that the North would continue missile production this year even if it stops nuclear and rocket tests.
 And he added: “Even if an agreement is reached on freezing the North’s nuclear programmes, complete verification would be next to impossible.”

China wants US, N Korea to hold talks ‘sooner rather than later’

China wants the United States and North Korea to engage in dialogue “sooner rather than later” and move toward establishing a peace mechanism, the country’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said yesterday. “The Korean Peninsula issue has finally taken an important step in the right direction,” Wang told journalists on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress, China’s annual parliamentary session.
On Tuesday, the South Korean government announced President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are set to hold a summit in April. It will be just the third time in history that the countries’ leaders have met. China “fully commends and supports” the steps taken by the two countries and calls on the US and North Korea “to engage in dialogue sooner rather than later” and move to set up a peace-establishing mechanism, Wang said.
The easing in the Korean conflict shows that China’s “suspension-for-suspension” plan has worked, Wang said. China has been proposing that the US and South Korea halt their war games, directed at the North, in exchange for Pyongyang suspending its nuclear and missile programmes. Nevertheless, the diplomatic process “will be clouded by various interferences,” according to Wang.
“All must demonstrate political courage and make a political decision,” Wang said. “We must not let the opportunity slip by.” Regarding a potential trade war with the US, Wang said it “is never the right solution,” however, Beijing is prepared to administer “the necessary and justified response.” The world’s two largest economies “should strive to be partners in cooperation,” Wang said.
Last week, US President Donald Trump drew criticism from Beijing after he promised to impose tariffs on steel and aluminium imports.

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