March 26, 2015 / 10:19 AM / in 3 years

North Korea's neighbors push to resume six-party talks

SEOUL/BEIJING (Reuters) - Russia and China discussed resuming six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear program this week, while a South Korean diplomat said five of the participants had agreed on conditions to present to Pyongyang for restarting the negotiations.

Numerous efforts to restart the talks since they were last held over six years ago have failed.

“Both sides exchanged views on the situation on the Korean peninsula and the issue of resuming the six party talks,” China’s foreign ministry said on its website on Tuesday on its talks with Russia, without giving further details.

Relations between North Korea and China, its main ally, have cooled since Kim Jong Un assumed power in Pyongyang and, in 2013, defied U.N. sanctions to conduct a third nuclear test.

Earlier this month, South Korea’s representative to the talks said China and Russia, as well as the United States, Japan, and South Korea, have reached “a certain degree of consensus,” on how to restart the process.

“Now is the time for ‘exploratory talks,’ to deliver the common view of the five parties to North Korea and to check its response,” Hwang Joon-kook, South Korea’s ambassador to the talks, said in a March 12 speech, without giving specifics.

“If such talks can prove North Korea’s sincerity towards the negotiations on denuclearization, the Six-Party Talks can be resumed,” he said.

In 2005, North Korea reached an agreement with the United States, South Korea, China, Japan and Russia to suspend its nuclear program in return for diplomatic rewards and energy assistance. Negotiations collapsed after the last round of talks in 2008, with North Korea declaring the deal void after refusing inspections to verify compliance.

North Korea has called for the resumption of the talks, but the United States and South Korea have said Pyongyang must first show it was serious about ending its nuclear program.

Pyongyang has said it was willing to suspend nuclear testing if the United States halted annual joint military drills with South Korea. Washington and Seoul rejected the proposal saying the drills were for defensive purposes.

Reporting by Tony Munroe and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan

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