Moon calls on NK to take bolder denuclearization steps

A vehicle in the motorcade of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Beijing China on Jan 9 2019

And speaking about a possible second meeting between Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump, . the South Korean leader said it may be imminent - following Kim's surprise trip to Beijing this week to meet President Xi Jinping.

South Korean Ambassador to the United States Cho Yoon-je told reporters in Washington Tuesday that "back-channel talks" are taking place between Pyongyang and Washington, adding that "because of the resoluteness of President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un, we may be able to look forward to preparatory talks for a North-U.S. summit in the near future".

"Xi Jinping said that the legitimate issues raised by the DPRK are rightful demands and that he fully agrees that the DPRK's reasonable interests should be justly resolved", it said, using the official country name the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Xi also reportedly accepted a previous invitation to visit the North Korean capital a year ago but has yet to go.

Mr Trump and Mr Kim first met last June, but progress over denuclearisation has since stalled.

Moon's overture, however, has invited criticism from conservatives in South Korea and the United States that he's making too many concessions and helping the North weaken US -led sanctions.

Officially, at least, China says it considers the tariff battle and North Korea's weapons programs to be entirely separate.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang, asked during a daily briefing whether there was a connection between Kim's visit and the possibility of another meeting between Kim and Trump, said China believed contact between the United States and North Korea was important.

North Korea has a well-honed talent for playing the world's major players against one another, leading analysts to believe that Kim at this point may be using that skill for leverage to get what he wants from a second summit with Trump: both striking a deal with the U.S. and keeping his nuclear weapons. KCNA said Xi accepted an invitation to visit North Korea, although details of when he might go were not given.

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Progress has been slow ever since as the North wants sanctions relief, while the U.S. remains firm that sanctions will remain in place until the North completely gives up its nuclear weapons program. Mr Kim has been visiting Beijing this week to project an image of a strong Pyongyang-Beijing alliance in advance of a second potential summit. Mr. Kim was accompanied by his wife, Ri Sol Ju, the news agency said. He also visited a pharmaceutical plant specialising in Chinese medicine.

The DongA Ilbo newspaper said that Xi hosted Kim at a banquet, which was held on the date believed to be North Korean leader's 35th birthday.

It said he met with Xi at the Great Hall of the People on Tuesday after a welcoming ceremony.

North Korea needs to take "more bold, practical measures for denuclearization" to ensure sanctions are lifted, the South's President Moon Jae-in said Thursday, January 10, with negotiations stalling between Pyongyang and Washington.

Those demands were in response to Pyongyang's initial, unilateral steps toward denuclearisation that included dismantling its only known nuclear testing site and a key missile engine facility.

All sides should "jointly push for a comprehensive resolution of the Korean Peninsula issue", he said.

"China stands ready to work with the DPRK and relevant parties to play a positive and constructive role in maintaining peace and stability and realizing denuclearization on the peninsula and lasting peace and stability in the region".

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