March 15, 2018 / 2:36 AM / 5 days ago

China, Russia welcome Korean peace drive - S.Korean envoy

SEOUL, March 15 (Reuters) - China’s President Xi Jinping offered encouragement for South Korea’s initiative to nurture peaceful engagement with North Korea, and Russia also expressed support, the South Korean official leading diplomatic efforts said on Thursday.

During the past week, National Security Office head Chung Eui-yong briefed officials in Beijing and Moscow following his dramatic success in arranging summits between the North Korean, South Korean and U.S. leaders.

“Xi Jinping offered a Chinese phrase that says ‘once hard ice melts, spring comes and flowers bloom’ to describe the situation on the Korean peninsula and expressed his willingness to support the current situation,” Chung told reporters on his return to Incheon International Airport.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un told the South Korean delegation led by Chung that he was open to addressing denuclearising with the United States, an offer that led to U.S. President Trump agreeing to meet Kim for a summit expected to happen sometime in May.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is set to hold a summit with the North’s Kim by the end of April.

The breakthrough comes after a year-long verbal spat between Kim Jong Un and Trump, with tensions exacerbated by multiple missile and nuclear tests by the North which has said it will forge on with its nuclear programme to protect its regime.

“China and Russia agreed to continue cooperation to uphold the peace that has been created, as well as the momentum for stability through close communication,” Chung said.

North Korea has friendly ties with both Beijing and Moscow, and China is by far its biggest trading partner.

Chung said China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi will visit Seoul early next week for talks with security officials here.

Pyongyang has remained silent over its agreement for the summits since Chung returned from the North, although officials in Seoul have said they expect to continue working talks soon to work out details for the inter-Korean summit. (Reporting by Christine Kim Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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