Five of the six regional powers involved in the now-stalled nuclear negotiations with North Korea – China, Russia, Japan, the US and South Korea – will hold a series of talks this week to discuss their response to the North's recent nuclear test, the South Korean foreign ministry has said.
The five countries are members of the six-party talks aimed at dismantling North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme. The negotiations have broken down since their last session in late 2008.
Last Wednesday, North Korea claimed to have successfully tested a hydrogen bomb, raising security tensions in the region to a new high.
In the past few days, South Korea has resumed anti-Pyongyang loudspeaker broadcasts of propaganda and K-Pop music into the North, while the US flew a B-52 bomber over South Korea in a show of force against the North.
The US and the South Koreans are also discussing sending more weapons to the region, the Yonhap news agency reported, including the nuclear-powered USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, a nuclear submarine and an F-22 stealth tactical fighter.
China’s foreign ministry said on Monday that China was willing to work with all parties to get North Korea back to the negotiating table to denuclearise the Korean Peninsula.
Hwang Joon-kook, South Korea's special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, is due to meet his US and Japanese counterparts, Sung Kim and Kimihiro Ishikane, in Seoul on Wednesday to hold "in-depth talks" on possible responses to the North's test, according to the South Korean foreign ministry.
On Thursday, Mr Hwang will visit China to hold similar talks with his Chinese counterpart, Wu Dawei. Talks are still under way to arrange a meeting between the South Korean envoy and his Russian counterpart, Igor Morgulov, the ministry added.
A new sanctions resolution is being discussed at the UN
after its earlier resolutions over the North’s three previous nuclear tests appear to have had little success in quelling Pyongyang’s atomic ambitions.
China is North Korea’s most significant ally, politically and economically, and Beijing has been the strongest voice in pushing for the resumption of talks, but relations with North Korea have been strained by its nuclear programme, as Pyongyang appears to ignore China in making decisions on nuclear and long-range rocket testing.
The talks have had their successes over the years, but in nearly every case, something has happened to stymie the advances made.
In 2005, North Korea agreed to suspend its nuclear programme in return for diplomatic rewards and energy assistance, but the deal collapsed in 2008, with North Korea declaring the deal void after refusing to allow inspections to verify compliance.
Dong Xiangrong, a research fellow at the National Institute of International Strategy of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that the meeting between the five parties would be aimed at reaching an agreement on detailed and expanded sanctions on North Korea, together with more effective monitoring measures on the implementation of any embargoes.