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Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
Beijing still considers the “freeze-for-freeze” plan to be the most sensible “first step” towards resolving the issue of North Korea’s nuclear and missile development, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said on Thursday.
“We believe that the ‘dual suspension’ proposal is the most feasible, fair and sensible plan in the present situation,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said during a news briefing, in comments carried by Reuters.
“The common perception is that using military force shouldn’t be the option to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue,” he said, in comments carried by South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, adding that the “essence” of the DPRK nuclear issue lies in security concerns and should, as a result, be resolved “through dialogue.”
“The suspension for suspension is not the ‘final objective’ but the ‘first step’,” Geng added.
Beijing has this year called on North Korea to suspend nuclear and missile activities in exchange for an agreement by the U.S. and South Korea to pause joint military drills, based on a concept it calls “suspension for suspension.”
The so-called “dual-track” approach aims to promote parallel progress in denuclearizing the Korean peninsula while moving towards the signing of a peace treaty by Washington and Pyongyang.
“Not only can it relieve the present tense situation, it can also resolve all parties’ most pressing security concerns, and provide an opportunity and create conditions to resume talks,” Geng added.
“We hope that all sides can conscientiously treat and proactively consider China’s proposal, and at the same time we welcome relevant parties to put forward proposals that can benefit the promotion of a peaceful resolution for the peninsula nuclear issue.”
The comments come after U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday said that he and Chinese President Xi Jinping had agreed that both “would not accept a so-called ‘freeze for freeze’ agreement like those that have consistently failed in the past.”
Speaking at a news conference in Washington DC to debrief the press on his 12-day trip to Asia, Trump said that Xi recognized North Korea’s nuclear weapons as “a grave threat.”
“We made that time is running out and we made it clear, and all options remain on the table,” he said.
The U.S. President also said Xi “pledged” to “use his great economic influence” over Pyongyang to work towards the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
The Russian and Chinese foreign ministers agreed to push for the “Chinese-proposed ideas of ‘double freezing'” in July.
The U.S. and South Korea, however, have consistently rejected the proposal, which U.S. ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has described as “insulting.”
So, too, have some organizations in North Korea. In October, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) carried a statement from the National Peace Committee of Korea and the Pan-Korean Emergency Measure Committee for Opposing Nuclear War Drills against the DPRK criticizing the “suspension for suspension” initiative proposed by Beijing as “irresponsible behavior.”
Wednesday saw Geng insist that Beijing’s position on the North Korean nuclear issue was “consistent and clear.”
A special envoy of President Xi Jinping is due to visit North Korea on Friday. Song Tao, head of the International Liaison Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), will visit Pyongyang to brief officials on last month’s 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
“As far as I know, the two sides will also exchange views on the relations between the two parties and the two countries and other issues of mutual concern,” Geng said on Wednesday, declining to provide the further details on the itinerary of the visit.
This visit will be the first by a senior Chinese official since Liu Zhenmin, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, visited Pyongyang in October last year.
Featured Image: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China
Edited by Oliver Hotham