China envoy tells Moon all sides must advance talks on Korean peninsula

BEIJING (Reuters) - Senior Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi told South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday that all parties must seize the moment to advance talks between leaders of North and South Korea, and between North Korea and the United States.

FILE PHOTO - Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi speaks during a meeting with South Korea's National Security Advisor Chung Eui-Yong (not pictured) and South Korean ambassador to China Noh Young-min (not pictured) at the Diaoyutai state guesthouse on March 12, 2018 in Beijing, China. REUTERS/Etienne Oliveau/Pool

Tension over North Korea’s tests of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles surged last year and raised fears of U.S. military action in response to the North’s threat to develop a nuclear weapon capable of hitting the United States.

But the situation has eased significantly since North Korea decided to send athletes to the Winter Olympics in South Korea in February.

The two sides, still technically at war after the 1950-53 conflict ended with a ceasefire, not a truce, are set to hold their first summit in more than a decade on April 27, after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged his commitment to denuclearisation.

Yang, a top Chinese diplomat and a member of China’s elite Politburo, told Moon on a visit to Seoul it was a crucial moment for alleviating the situation on the Korean peninsula, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.

“All sides must seize the moment, work together, promote smooth meetings that achieve positive outcomes between leaders of South and North Korea, and between North Korea and the United States, and in due course reopen a substantive political resolution process to the peninsula issue,” Yang said.

Yang also informed Moon about Kim’s visit to Beijing this week, the North Korean leader’s first known foreign trip since he assumed power in 2011, where he met Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Moon thanked Yang for China’s contribution to the easing of tension on the peninsula, the Chinese ministry said in a statement.

Kim is scheduled to meet U.S. President Donald Trump in May to discuss the nuclear issue, although a time and place have not been set.

His pledge to denuclearise the Korean peninsula was reported by Chinese state media, but North Korea’s official media made no mention of it, or Kim’s anticipated meeting with Trump.

Kim and Trump had earlier exchanged insults and veiled threats of war but the U.S. leader made the surprising announcement this month that he was prepared to meet Kim.

Trump wrote on Twitter he had received a message from Xi late on Tuesday that his meeting with Kim “went very well” and that Kim looked forward to meeting the U.S. president.

Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Robert Birsel