China’s envoy seeks breakthrough in nuclear stand-off

 SEOUL (The Korea Herald/ANN Desk) – Xi’s man lands in Pyongyang as international pressure rises against Kim’s regime

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s special envoy will visit North Korea on Friday amid rising international pressure for Pyongyang to halt its nuclear weapons programme. This week Singapore and Sudan became the latest countries to cut trade ties with North Korea, in line with tightening UN sanctions in the wake of its nuclear and missile tests this year.  
The tests have strained ties with North Korea’s main ally, China, whose special envoy Song Tao is making a four-day visit during which he could meet with leader Kim Jong-un.
Song’s trip comes on the heels of US President Donald Trump’s 12-day tour of Asia, which included a stop in China. Trump has called on China to do more to rein in the wayward regime.
Experts say that the issue of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme will likely be discussed at a time when Pyongyang has suspended tests and provocation for more than 60 days.
Joseph Yun, the top US nuclear envoy, said at a recent meeting that if North Korea halted its testing for about 60 days, that would be the signal Washington needs to resume direct dialogue with Pyongyang.
Speaking in Seoul on Tuesday, Yun urged the North to stay that course “for a period of time”.
Meanwhile, North Korea’s state-run newspaper said on Friday that the country would not put issues directly linked to its core interests and its people’s security on the negotiation table.
“The United States should abandon its hostile policy toward North Korea. If Washington does not give it up, we will not budge by an inch from the path to strengthening our nuclear force,” said the Rodong Sinmun.
On Thursday, the US rejected a so-called “freeze-for-freeze” proposal which calls for suspending US-South Korea military exercises in exchange for halting North Korea’s nuclear and missile testing. The proposal had been put forward by UN Security Council members China and Russia. Trump said on Wednesday that he and Xi had agreed not to accept the deal, though China’s foreign ministry quickly said “freeze-for-freeze was “the most viable and reasonable” way out of the stalemate.
The White House later clarified that Trump and Xi agreed to accept their differences.
“Both sides made their position clear,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters. “They’re different, but we agreed that they’re going to be different positions, and therefore it’s not going to move forward.”
She also said Trump will make an announcement early next week on whether to designate North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism.
The move is largely symbolic, doubling up on existing sanctions and restrictions on aid and exports. But it could dent efforts to reach a diplomatic solution to the stand-off over Pyongyang’s development of nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting the continental United States, reports AFP.
The designation was lifted by then-president George W Bush in 2008 in an effort to encourage North Korea to dismantle parts of its nuclear programme.