Chinese President Hu Jintao will call for new talks on North Korea when he makes a state visit to the United States next week, a senior diplomat said on Wednesday.
Mr. Hu’ s long-planned January 18-21 trip will include a stop in the mid-western business hub of Chicago, Vice-Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said.
Mr. Cui said Mr. Hu will meet President Barack Obama, other administration figures and members of Congress, and will deliver a speech. He did not give any other details, saying the two sides were still finalizing arrangements.
Mr. Cui said North Korea would be among the issues discussed, but played down differences over the Chinese ally, which has sent tensions in north-eastern Asia soaring with its development of nuclear weapons and the deadly shelling of a South Korean island in November.
China and the U.S. “have broad common interests and share the same goal on the Korean nuclear issue,” Mr. Cui said.
He urged a quick resumption of six-nation talks on North Korean nuclear disarmament, along with the implementation of past commitments.
The long-stalled negotiations among North and South Korea, China, Russia, Japan and the U.S. produced a 2005 agreement in which North Korea pledged to dismantle its nuclear programmes in exchange for economic aid and diplomatic concessions.
South Korea has ruled out a return to the talks until North Korea assumes responsibility for the shelling and for the earlier sinking of a South Korean naval ship and take steps toward nuclear disarmament.
The United States has been pushing China to help moderate North Korea’s behaviour. North Korea depends on China for aid, but Beijing says its influence over the impoverished inward-looking nation is limited. China props up the North largely out of fear that a collapsed state would unsettle the entire North Asian region.
Cui also sought to minimize friction over U.S. diplomatic efforts in Asia that some Chinese describe as unwanted interference in the region.
“We hope to have effective cooperation in the Asian-Pacific region to contribute to regional peace, stability and prosperity,” he said. “I am confident that with the joint efforts the upcoming state visit by President Hu will be a full success.”
Mr. Hu’s trip reciprocates Mr. Obama’s state visit to China in November 2009.
The White House said in announcing the visit last month that Mr. Hu’s trip will “highlight the importance of expanding cooperation between the United States and China.”
Mr. Obama and his wife are to host Mr. Hu for an official state dinner on January 19 - an honour denied to Mr. Hu on his last visit to the U.S. in 2006.