Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Thursday urged the US and North Korea to talk as soon as possible after Pyongyang showed a rare willingness to halt nuclear programs if its national security were assured.
All relevant sides, particularly the US and North Korea, should make contact and conduct dialogue as soon as possible based on the dual-track approach, advance denuclearization of the peninsula and promote peace mechanisms, Wang said at a press briefing during the annual session of the National People's Congress.
Wang called for resolving the legitimate security concerns of all sides including North Korea on an equal footing.
"China's suspension-for-suspension proposal has proven a right prescription for the problem in creating the basic conditions needed for improving inter-Korea relations," he said.
The next step was to bring the situation on the peninsula back on track toward peace and bring the nuclear issue back on the track of dialogue, he said.
"There is light at the end of the tunnel, but it will not all be smooth sailing ahead of us," Wang said.
Chinese analysts feared North Korea's sudden change of mind may prompt the US to become overly confident, mistakenly believing that its maximum pressure policy was bending North Korea to its will and ignoring Pyongyang's willingness to talk.
US Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday said the US would continue to pressure North Korea and that all options were "on the table" until Washington sees evidence Pyongyang was taking steps toward denuclearization.
Lü Chao, a research fellow at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, said history has shown sanctions and military threats do not work well with Pyongyang.
"Neglecting Pyongyang's gestures and continuing to apply 'maximum pressure' will only make the situation deteriorate… The US needs to face its ally South Korea's wish and make efforts to broker US-North Korea talks," Lü told the Global Times.
Da Zhigang, director of the Institute of Northeast Asian Studies at the Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times the past talks and agreement between Washington and Pyongyang that eventually fell apart may further jeopardize trust between the two countries and hinder new talks.
"From the perspective of the US national interest, the best scenario is not achieving peace on the peninsula but dismantling Pyongyang's nuclear arsenal while maintaining a certain degree of confrontation between the two Koreas," Da said.
The US has about 25,000 troops stationed in South Korea.
South Korean National Security Office head Chung Eui-yong and National Intelligence Service chief Suh Hoon, who met North Korean leader Kim Jong-un this week, traveled to the US on Thursday to meet National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, Reuters reported.
They will also speak with other department heads and later possibly meet either US President Donald Trump or Vice President Mike Pence, a South Korean government official said on condition of anonymity.
Newspaper headline: China urges US-NK talks