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China and North Korea to hold talks this week

North Korea tested a long-range rocket this year, a move that angered China, its most important ally.

AFP/Getty Images/file

North Korea tested a long-range rocket this year, a move that angered China, its most important ally.

BEIJING — China’s Foreign Ministry will hold a strategic dialogue with North Korea this week after Pyongyang’s surprise offer of new talks with the United States, a ministry spokeswoman said Monday.

Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui will meet First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan of North Korea on Wednesday in Beijing, ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regularly scheduled briefing. Hua said the two will discuss bilateral relations and the situation on the Korean peninsula.

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‘‘China has been paying close attention to developments on the peninsula, and has been actively working toward the early resumption of dialogue and negotiation by all sides,’’ Hua said, referring to long-stalled six-nation nuclear disarmament talks hosted by China that include South Korea, Japan, Russia, the United States, and North Korea.

North Korea surprised many on Sunday by proposing ‘‘senior-level’’ talks with the United States to ease tensions and negotiate a formal peace treaty ending the Korean War, which concluded only with an armistice.

The Obama administration has said it is open to dialogue, but wants ‘‘credible negotiations’’ that involve North Korean compliance with UN resolutions and would lead to a nuclear-free North.

On Monday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States has seen no evidence that Pyongyang’s offer of talks is different from numerous others it has made over the years that have yielded little. ‘‘The key piece here is that they need to take credible steps to move toward concrete denuclearization,’’ she said.

The North Korean proposal is expected to be discussed in meetings this week in Washington involving US, Japanese and South Korean officials.

Tensions spiked this year over a long-range rocket launch and nuclear test by North Korea which angered China, the North’s most important ally and its biggest source of trade and aid.

Beijing’s pique apparently prompted a visit last month to Beijing by a top North Korean envoy who stated that Pyongyang is willing to take steps to return to talks.

The envoy, Vice Marshal Choe Ryong Hae, was quoted as saying Pyongyang is ‘‘willing to take active measures in this regard,’’ although it wasn’t clear whether it had committed to any timeframe.

China has backed United Nations sanctions against the North, but would be unwilling to come down more harshly on its ally, Zhang Yunling, director of international studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told a forum in Beijing on Monday.

However, Pyongyang’s continuing refusal to rejoin denuclearization talks and spurning of China’s calls for it to undertake economic reforms would ‘‘definitely affect our bilateral relations,’’ Zhang said.

At the United Nations, a spokesman for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Ban believes any dialogue between the United States and North Korea should focus on the goal of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.

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