From the Korea Times:
China and North Korea are in secret talks about the isolated country's nuclear program, according to reports.
American broadcaster NBC on Thursday quoted a U.S. government source as saying that China sent its "top nuclear negotiators" to the North to "communicate the gravity of the situation to the North."
Taiwan's official Central News Agency on Sunday quoted Hong Kong military analyst Liang Guoliang as saying China is trying to resolve the North Korean nuclear impasse through diplomatic channels with the North.
The report said that Pyongyang is demanding China ensure the North's security and economic gain and give a period of three years to abandon nuclear weapons. However, Beijing is reportedly asking the North to dismantle nuclear weapons within three months and to accept the offer within two to three weeks.
Hong Kong-based military commentator Liang Guoliang said that the report is highly likely to be true. He reportedly said there is about a "50 percent chance" that China and North Korea will reach an agreement during their talks, adding if Pyongyang rejects China's offer, Beijing will likely give up diplomatic breakthrough.
Any sign of pressure from China has to be a positive development but, as has been said often enough already, there is no chance that North Korea will dismantle its nuclear weapons. Kim Jong-un may agree some concessions on paper, in return for economic aid. But then, as always happens, he'll renege. Everyone knows this, but nevertheless everyone must continue to pretend that talks are the goal of all this frenetic activity.
The bottom line, though, as Joshua Stanton and Anthony Ruggiero argued here: co-existence with a nuclear North Korea is simply not possible.
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un last month sent assassins to Malaysia to murder his half-brother in a crowded airport terminal with a chemical weapon. Pyongyang has sent assassins abroad to kidnap and kill human rights activists and dissidents, proliferated ballistic missiles, and sold weapons — including man-portable surface-to-air missiles — to terrorists and their sponsors. It attacked South Korea twice in 2010: sinking a warship and shelling a fishing village, which killed 50 of its citizens. The hermit kingdom is a state sponsor of terrorism, even in the absence of a formal designation: it has helped Syria use chemical weapons against its own people, and attacked our freedom of expression with terrorist threats against movie theaters across the United States.
Nor can the U.S. invest its hopes in talks alone. Pyongyang insists that it will neither freeze nor dismantle its nuclear and missile programs. U.S. envoys have met with their North Korean counterparts during almost every year in the last decade, yet failed to induce Pyongyang to return to disarmament talks. In 2012, President Obama finally secured Pyongyang’s agreement to freeze its nuclear and missile programs.
Two weeks later, Pyongyang reneged. It will take more than another piece of paper to curb the nuclear ambitions of a regime that signed — and unilaterally withdrew from — an armistice, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, two nuclear safeguards agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency, an inter-Korean denuclearization agreement, and denuclearization agreements with the U.S. in 1994, 2005, 2007, and 2012.
A nuclear North Korea would mean the end of nonproliferation and unleash an age of global insecurity, yet a military solution could escalate into a devastating war. Preventing those outcomes increasingly relies on making sanctions work...
In his latest post - worth reading in full - Stanton reinforces the point:
There is no compromise, no half-surrender, no piece of paper that will secure peace and prevent war without Pyongyang’s disarmament and without fundamental humanitarian reforms. As long as Pyongyang possesses weapons of mass destruction, and as long as its model of survival is based on terror and secrecy, it will still pose an existential threat to the United States, to Americans’ freedom of speech, and to the security of the entire world. As the Sony cyber terrorist threat, the Bangladesh Bank theft, and the horrors in Syria have shown us, North Korea isn’t just a Korean problem, it is, as President Trump said recently, “a humanity problem.” If you really think the solution to this is as simple as “talk to them,” at least review the record on just how many times President Obama and his predecessors tried to do exactly that.
Each week that passes diminishes our chances to prevent another war in Korea. There is no more time to be wasted on the palliative policies of engagement and talks that have produced no positive results, and which have done so much to bring us to the present crisis by paying Pyongyang to nuke up. For now, there is no chance that talks will achieve our key aim of disarming Pyongyang, but it would be a grave error to rule out talks entirely, because the time will come when diplomacy will be essential to preventing war. If sanctions and political subversion bring Pyongyang to the point where it fears (and Beijing also fears) that its regime will collapse — and to achieve the necessary pressure to disarm Pyongyang, they must — then we must leave Pyongyang a diplomatic escape that, while distasteful to it (and in some regards, to us) is still preferable to war. But for now, our choice increasingly comes down to making sanctions work or accepting that war is inevitable.