China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi has said positive changes have emerged on North Korea amid US and South Korea efforts to denuclearise the country.
Yang, speaking during a meeting with South Korean national security chief Chung Eui-yong, praised recent international efforts.
The comments come ahead of Chung Eui-Yong’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping later today as diplomats work to make US President Donald Trump’s proposed face-to-face meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un happen — something Trump has said could be the “greatest deal for the world”.
Sweden, Switzerland and China have also been named as possible hosts of the meeting.
No sitting US president has ever met a North Korean leader, and such a summit was previously only seen as possible after major concessions from the North Koreans.
Meanwhile, South Korea is also sending a delegation to Tokyo to brief Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the attempts to open talks with Pyongyang on its nuclear and missile program.
However a UN investigator to North Korea has said any progress in the nuclear and security dialogue with North Korea at upcoming summits must be accompanied by discussions on improving human rights.
Tomas Ojea-Quintana told the Human Rights Council:
The country’s extensive penitentiary system and severe restrictions on all forms of free expression, movement and access to information continue to nurture fear of the state and leave people at the mercy of unaccountable public officials.
Last night CIA director Mike Pompeo defended Trump’s decision to meet Kim, saying the president understands the risks.
Pompeo told Fox News that Trump “isn’t doing this for theatre, he is going there to solve a problem”.
However, senators from Trump’s own party have expressed scepticism over the meeting and urged him to set tougher preconditions.
Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado said Trump should not meet Kim until North Korea produces proof it has begun reversing its years-long pursuit of a nuclear weapon.
Gardner told Face the Nation on CBS:
What we have to hear more of is how we are going to get to those concrete, verifiable steps towards denuclearisation before this meeting occurs.
Democrats, too, expressed concerns. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said on CNN:
I am very worried that he’s going to go into these negotiations and be taken advantage of.
At a political rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday, Trump told supporters he believed North Korea wanted to “make peace”.
But he said he might leave the talks quickly if it didn’t look like progress for nuclear disarmament could be made.