China says North Korean sanctions relief is best plan with US envoy set to arrive

Beijing, ChinaUpdated: Dec 19, 2019, 11:07 AM IST

File Photo: Picture released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on November 29, 2019, shows the test-fire of a super-large multiple launch rocket system. Photograph:(AFP)

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China touted its proposal offering sanctions relief to North Korea as the best option to defuse tensions on the Korean peninsula.

China touted its proposal offering sanctions relief to North Korea as the best option to defuse tensions, calling on Thursday for a compromise in the standoff between Washington and Pyongyang over the latter's nuclear and missiles programmes.

The proposal, made jointly with Russia on Monday, calls on the UN Security Council to lift some sanctions on exports and foreign workers to "break the deadlock" in the stalled talks between Pyongyang and Washington.

"This is the best plan in the current situation to resolve the stalemate in the denuclearisation of North Korea and for its peace and stability," Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui told reporters, adding that a political solution is still achievable despite a recent rise in tensions.

The comments come as the US special envoy for North Korea Stephen Biegun is set to arrive in the Chinese capital on Thursday for talks.

The US holds veto power in the 15-member council and remains opposed to any sanctions relief, however, making the China-Russia resolution unlikely to go through.

Biegun's public call to Pyongyang for renewed dialogue during a visit to South Korea earlier this week went unanswered, underscoring the reclusive state's discontent at a lack of concessions for its decision to halt nuclear tests and long-range missile launches.

Pyongyang has conducted a series of weapons tests and waged a war of words with US President Donald Trump in recent weeks, stoking fears the two countries could return to a collision course.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Trump met for the first time in Singapore in June 2018 and have met twice more since, but scant progress toward denuclearisation has been made and Kim has given Trump until the end of this year to show flexibility.

North Korea's UN envoy declared this month that denuclearisation was off the table, and some analysts say Pyongyang could soon conduct a test for a major strategic weapon such as an intercontinental ballistic missile.

"We hope that the concerned parties will practice restraint and meet each other halfway, and work through dialogue to realize positive interactions and quickly find a meeting point to find a resolution," Luo said.