BEIJING • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un told a visiting Chinese diplomat yesterday that he is committed to denuclearisation, China's Foreign Ministry said, as diplomatic efforts to bring lasting peace to the Korean peninsula gather pace.
China is North Korea's most important economic and diplomatic backer, despite its anger at the North's repeated nuclear and missile tests, and its support for strong United Nations sanctions against the North.
However, China has also welcomed moves by North Korea to improve ties with South Korea and the United States.
China's top diplomat, State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, is visiting North Korea following last week's historic meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae In and the North's Kim Jong Un, when both pledged to improve ties.
The North surprised the world several days before the summit by declaring it would dismantle its nuclear test site to "transparently guarantee" its dramatic commitment to stop all nuclear and missile tests.
Meeting in the North Korean capital Pyongyang, Mr Kim told Mr Wang that recent positive changes on the peninsula were beneficial to a peaceful resolution, China's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
"Kim Jong Un said achieving the denuclearisation of the peninsula is the firm position of the North Korean side," the ministry said.
Mr Wang told Mr Kim that North Korea had seized the day and made a decisive decision, bringing positive changes.
Last week's talks between the two Korean leaders had brought about an opportunity for a political resolution, Mr Wang added.
China supported an end to the state of war on the peninsula, North Korea's shift to economic development and the resolution of North Korea's legitimate security concerns during the denuclearisation process, he said.
"China is willing to maintain communication with North Korea on this and increase coordination."
In an earlier statement, he said China hoped dialogue between the North and the US would be successful and that substantial progress would be made, referring to an upcoming meeting between Mr Kim and US President Donald Trump.
"China is willing to strengthen communication with North Korea and continue to play a positive role in seeking a political solution to the Korean peninsula issue," he said.
South Korea's presidential office said high-level inter-Korea talks would be held in the middle of this month to work on implementing the agreement reached by the two Koreas.
Mr Kim said at last week's summit that he would discuss details of denuclearisation at the North Korea-US summit, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said, citing South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung Gyon.
China had largely sat on the sidelines while the two Koreas improved ties, until Mr Kim made a secretive trip to Beijing to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in late March.
Beijing has been keen to show that it has an indispensable role to play in seeking a lasting solution, concerned that its interests may be ignored, especially as Pyongyang and Washington edge closer together.
Meanwhile, Mr Xi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are scheduled to hold a telephone conference today to discuss how they should handle North Korea, Nippon TV reported, citing unidentified government officials.
Mr Abe is seeking Mr Xi's agreement on a demand that North Korea takes specific actions towards denuclearisation, Nippon TV reported.