Diplomatic back ‘n’ forth over the Six-Party Talks continued yesterday as Wu Dawei, China’s point man on Korean Peninsula affairs, returned to Pyongyang for a second visit to the North Korean capital in just two months. North Korea’s state news agency, Chosun Central News Agency reported the arrival of the Wu delegation at Sunan Airport; however, as normal, no further details of the bilateral agenda were provided.
The visit is just the latest in an energetic round of shuttle diplomacy between Beijing, Washington, Seoul and Pyongyang, with China at the center. On October 28th and 29th, Wu was in the United States, where he met officials including North Korea policy head Glyn Davies. Speculation that nuclear talks progress might be impending began to grow at that time, after Wu and Davies told reporters that the two sides shared “a confidence” that the Six-Party Talks would eventually resume. Wu’s descent upon Pyongyang has elevated speculation further that a return to the nuclear negotiating table might be on the cards.
Experts presume that Wu’s goal in visiting the North is to get a sense of Pyongyang’s sincerity, and moreover to act as a messenger to try and harmonize the differences of opinion that remain between Washington, DC and the regime of Kim Jong Eun. They warn that Wu is facing a formidable challenge, however, as North Korea continues to push for an “action for action” approach in the face of implacable U.S. determination that the North must act unilaterally before a return to the negotiating table can occur.
However, experts also note that North Korea has little option but to periodically placate China, either by action or the pretense thereof. This is because Chinese material support is of significance to North Korea in terms of systemic stability. China has continuously reiterated its desire to see a return to the Six-Party Talks: not only are talks good for maintaining Northeast Asian security relations; they give an impression of Chinese diplomatic agency, as well.
North Korea has not shown any willingness to address the roots of its systemic shortcomings, but is currently attempting to draw international investment to newly formed special economic zones in the country, and is aware that the only convivial investment environment is a peaceful one.
KINU researcher Park Young Ho told Daily NK, “China’s aim is to mediate an agreement on North Korean nuclear issues by restarting the Six-Party Talks. Through the visit of Wu Dawei, they will pass on the position of the United States and strongly urge North Korea to take a productive approach.”
Oh Gyeong Seob of the Sejong Institute agreed, asserting that China is adopting a positive stance in order to show that, rather than simply leaving North Korea to generate uncertainty in the international environment, its goal is to manage relations on the Korean Peninsula.
However, “Look at North Korea’s stance thus far; failing to respond satisfactorily to international demands, etc.,” he said. “It can be seen that they have no interest in abandoning their nuclear programs. North Korea is going along with moves to restart the Six-Party Talks so as to send a conciliatory message to the international community, improve relations with China, and ease sanctions.”