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China backs 'freeze-for-freeze' approach in North Korea-US talks

China has reiterated its call for an agreement between North Korea and the US under which the North would gain concessions if it freezes its nuclear weapons programme.

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang Geng said China's position has not changed and the "freeze-for-freeze" initiative, under which the US and South Korea would suspend large-scale military exercises in return, remained a "first step".

"We believe that the freeze-for-freeze initiative is the most viable and reasonable plan against the current backdrop, which cannot only alleviate the current tensions but also addresses the most urgent security concerns of all sides," Mr Geng said.

Such an agreement would "create opportunities and conditions for the resumption of peace talks and find breakthroughs to get out of this stalemate", he added.

The US has long dismissed the proposal, saying North Korea must unilaterally cease its programme before negotiations can begin.

On Wednesday, US President Donald Trump told reporters China had agreed with the US on that point during his 12-day trip through Asia that included a state visit to China, where he was hosted by President Xi Jinping.

"President Xi recognises that a nuclear North Korea is a grave threat to China and we agreed that we would not accept a so-called freeze-for-freeze agreement, like those that have consistently failed in the past," Mr Trump said.

China and Russia have proposed the agreement, also known as "dual suspension," as a way to restart long-stalled negotiations.

China, North Korea's only major ally, said on Wednesday that it would send a high-level special envoy to the North's capital, Pyongyang, amid an extended chill in relations between the neighbours.

AP

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