China opens forum to all despite US caution on N. Korea

BEIJING • China welcomes all countries to a forum this weekend on China's new Silk Road plan, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday, after the United States warned that North Korea's attendance could affect other countries' participation.

Two sources with knowledge of the situation said the US embassy in Beijing had submitted a diplomatic note to China's Foreign Ministry, saying inviting North Korea sent the wrong message at a time when the world was trying to pressure it over its repeated missile and nuclear tests. The disagreement over North Korea threatens to overshadow China's most important diplomatic event of the year for an initiative championed by President Xi Jinping.

Asked about the US note, the Foreign Ministry said in a short statement sent to Reuters that it did "not understand the situation".

"The Belt and Road initiative is an open and inclusive one. We welcome all countries' delegations to attend the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation," it said. The ministry did not elaborate.

It said on Tuesday that North Korea would send a delegation to the summit but gave no other details. The US is sending a delegation led by White House adviser Matt Pottinger.

Meanwhile, Ms Choe Son Hui, North Korea's Foreign Ministry director-general for US affairs, has said that Pyongyang would be willing to hold talks with the US if the conditions are right, echoing a statement by President Donald Trump recently.

"We'll have dialogue if the conditions are there," she told reporters when asked if the North was preparing to hold talks with the Trump administration, according to Yonhap. When asked if North Korea was also preparing to talk with the new government in South Korea, of liberal President Moon Jae In, Ms Choe said: "We'll see."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 14, 2017, with the headline 'China opens forum to all despite US caution on N. Korea'. Print Edition | Subscribe