BEIJING/WASHINGTON • Chinese President Xi Jinping urged US President Donald Trump last month to show flexibility in dealings with North Korea and ease sanctions on the country "in due course", China's Foreign Ministry has said.
A senior US official said Washington's policy continued to be to maintain sanctions on North Korea until it gives up its nuclear weapons and the State Department reiterated that it expected countries around the world to fully implement and enforce them.
China signed up for strict United Nations sanctions following repeated North Korean nuclear and missile tests but also has suggested they could be eased as a reward for good behaviour.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters on Friday that Mr Xi briefed Mr Trump on China's position on North Korea when they met on the sidelines of the Group of 20 (G-20) summit in Osaka.
"President Xi... pushed the US side to show flexibility and meet the North Koreans halfway, including easing sanctions in due course," Mr Geng said.
Mr Xi and Mr Trump have both spoken with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently - Mr Xi before the G-20 summit during a trip to Pyongyang, and Mr Trump after the summit, when he met Mr Kim at the Demilitarised Zone along the North's border with South Korea.
Mr Trump said after his meeting that both sides would set up teams to push forward stalled talks aimed at getting North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said they would likely happen "sometime in July... probably in the next two or three weeks".
However, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said a top Seoul official visiting Washington expressed uncertainty on Friday that the talks, stalled since a failed summit in Hanoi in February, could resume this month.
Yonhap said Mr Kim Hyun-chong, deputy chief of South Korea's National Security Office, told reporters after meeting US deputy national security adviser Charles Kupperman that the US side still appeared to be waiting for a response from the North.
The State Department declined specific comment on Mr Kim's remarks but said it had no meetings to announce.
Mr Trump and Mr Kim's summit in Hanoi earlier this year collapsed over US demands for North Korea's complete denuclearisation and North Korean insistence on sanctions relief. There has been no sign of a narrowing of differences since.