China's chief negotiator on North Korea's nuclear problem on Friday welcomed "positive" developments on the Korean Peninsula after the two Koreas agreed to hold talks next week to discuss the North's possible participation in the Winter Olympics, which will be held in South Korea.
Kong Xuanyou, assistant foreign minister, made the remarks at the start of a meeting with his South Korean counterpart Lee Do-hoon. He arrived in Seoul earlier in the day for a two-day stay, during which he is to meet South Korean officials for discussions on North Korea and issues of mutual concern.
"Currently, some positive things are unfolding with regard to the situation on the Korean Peninsula, though there are still complicated challenges," Kong said via an interpreter.
He expressed hope that Seoul and Beijing will strengthen strategic communication and advance mutual trust based on agreements their leaders reached during a summit in Beijing in December.
Lee also emphasized that the North Korean nuclear issue is facing a "critical turning point," citing the North Korean leader's New Year's Day message.
"Against this backdrop, it is more important than ever to maintain cooperation between South Korea and China," he said. "I hope that the cooperation between the governments of the two countries remain close going forward."
Earlier Friday, North Korea accepted Seoul's offer for high-level talks to discuss the North's participation in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, which will be held from Feb. 9-25.
The agreement followed North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's overture for dialogue in his New Year's Day speech and subsequent action taken to restore a border communication line between the Koreas.
Observers expect that the first inter-Korean talks in two years will likely help reduce tensions caused by the North's continual missile and nuclear tests last year.
President Moon Jae-in earlier made it clear that improving inter-Korean relations should go along with efforts to denuclearize North Korea, and he called for increased efforts to closely coordinate with major powers. (Yonhap)
Lee Sam-sun firstname.lastname@example.org