BEIJING – China told a top North Korean envoy Friday it wants a peaceful, denuclearized Korean Peninsula, and said the emissary warned there is "no guarantee of peace" but that his country was willing to hold talks with all sides.
The official state Xinhua News Agency said a top Chinese army general, Fan Changlong, made the call for denuclearization in his meeting Friday with North Korean Vice Marshal Choe Ryong Hae.
His comments were a reiteration of China's established position, but could be seen as a rebuke of its neighboring ally following a half-year gap in high-level contacts during which Pyongyang angered Beijing by conducting rocket launches, a nuclear test and other saber-rattling.
Tensions surrounding the nuclear issue have "intensified strategic conflicts among involved parties and jeopardized the peace and stability of the peninsula," continued Fan, a vice chairman of the Central Military Commission overseeing China's armed forces.
Choe, a personal envoy of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was widely expected to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and deliver a message from Kim before returning.
"Conditions on the Korean Peninsula and in the east Asian region are complex and exceptional, and there is no guarantee of peace. North Korea's people require a peaceful and stable environment to build their nation," Choe was quoted as saying.
"North Korea is willing to work with all sides to search for a method of solving the problems through dialogue," Choe said.
The envoy's comments reflect both the threatening tone of North Korea's recent statements, and its desire to show deference to Beijing's hopes for a return to nuclear disarmament talks.
Choe met Thursday with the ruling Communist Party's fifth-ranked official, and Chinese state media later quoted the envoy as saying that North Korea "is willing to accept the suggestion of the Chinese side and launch dialogue with all relevant parties."
Beijing considered Pyongyang's recent moves an affront to its interests in regional stability and showed its displeasure by joining with the U.S. to back U.N. sanctions and cut off dealings with North Korea's Foreign Trade Bank.
China is North Korea's last significant diplomatic ally and main source of trade and economic assistance.
China's North Korea watchers said it is unlikely that Chinese leaders would have accepted Choe's visit without a promise from Pyongyang that it was prepared to return to diplomacy as Beijing has sought.
"The relationship is rocky, so they will try to mend the relationship," Cui Yingjiu, a retired professor of Korean at Peking University, said of North Korea. "Second, they also want to improve relations with the U.S. and need China to be their intermediary."