U.S. envoy to 6-party talks to strategize with ChinaWASHINGTON - The U.S. envoy for North Korea is traveling to East Asia next week on a fresh round of nuclear diplomacy, as Washington looks to nudge a reluctant China to step up pressure on Pyongyang to disarm.
The envoy, Glyn Davies, will start his trip today in China, before traveling to South Korea and Japan. It comes as North Korea says it wants to improve its relations with South Korea and has agreed to resume reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.
Since Davies’ last visit to the region in late November, there’s been unprecedented turbulence inside North Korea’s ruling family. Young leader Kim Jong-un has executed his powerful uncle, Jang Song-thaek, who was a key figure in the North’s relations with its only major ally, China.
Davies’ trip signals Chinese willingness to resume discussions on North Korea that were likely put on pause as Beijing absorbed the impact of Jang’s demise. In a sign of its reticence, China’s envoy on Korean Peninsula affairs, Wu Dawei, did not visit Washington as expected after Davies’ last trip to Beijing two months ago; instead, China has invited Davies to visit again.
But the willingness to engage with the United States again doesn’t mean Beijing will be ready to step up pressure on its troublesome ally. The United States and China are united in their desire that North Korea denuclearize, and they cooperated in tightening UN sanctions on the North in response to a nuclear test last February. But they’ve remained at odds over how to engage the North.
China has been eager for the quick resumption of six-nation talks on the nuclear program that could reward Pyongyang with aid in exchange for disarming. Pyongyang says it is ready to do so without preconditions, but Washington is skeptical of North Korea’s intentions and is demanding it take preliminary concrete steps to show its sincerity.
The North’s latest charm offensive toward South Korea comes less than a year after it was threatening the United States and the South with nuclear war. North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations, Sin Son-ho, repeated the conciliatory message toward the South at a news conference on Friday. But he demanded the cancellation of the South’s upcoming joint military exercises with the United States. He also justified the North’s “nuclear forces” as serving as a deterrent against the United States.