SEOUL (AFP) - South Korea and China will resume talks this week on efforts to curb North Korea's nuclear weapons programme, following reported moves by Washington and Pyongyang to revive a long-stalled six-nation denuclearisation forum.
Mr Hwang Joon Kook, South Korea's chief delegate to the six-party talks, will meet his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei in Beijing on Wednesday, Seoul's foreign ministry said.
The two, picking up where they left off last October, will discuss ways to prevent further North Korean nuclear tests and the possibility of "reactivating denuclearisation talks", said ministry spokesman Noh Kwang Il.
The Beijing meeting raises the possibility of a new round of diplomacy to revive the six-party talks last held in December 2008, and grouping the two Koreas, host China, Russia, Japan and the United States.
The Washington Post on Monday said US and North Korean nuclear envoys had been secretly discussing the idea of "talks about talks" but had been unable to agree on practical arrangements.
"We want to test if they have an interest in resuming negotiations," it quoted a senior US administration official as saying.
"I think we've made it very clear that we would like to see them take some steps first".
Those would include suspending work at North Korea's nuclear facilities and pledging not to conduct any further atomic tests, he said.
North Korea carried out nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013.
Last month, former American officials including Mr Stephen Bosworth and Mr Joseph DeTrani, both of whom have a long history of dealing with North Korea, met in Singapore with Mr Ri Yong Ho, North Korea's Vice-Foreign Minister and lead nuclear negotiator.
Their aim was to check "the lay of the land", the Post said.
The Singapore meeting resulted in the suggestion that Mr Sung Kim, the US special envoy for North Korea policy, meet a North Korean counterpart.
But the US was unwilling to send its envoy to Pyongyang, a decision criticised by the North on Sunday.
It accused Washington of trying to create the wrong impression that Pyongyang was the main obstacle to dialogue.
The aim of the six-party talks is to persuade the North to scrap its nuclear weapons in return for aid and other incentives such as security guarantees and diplomatic normalisation.
Mr David Straub, a former US negotiator with the North, was quoted by the Post as saying both sides have for decades wanted to talk to each other. The issue now was what they want to achieve.
"The North Koreans have made it clear publicly and privately that they are a nuclear weapons state and that they intend to be a nuclear weapons state forever," he was quoted as saying.