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China vows to play 'constructive' role in Korean Peninsula affairs

Chinese President Xi Jinping leaves after the opening session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, on March 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

BEIJING (Kyodo) -- China on Monday expressed readiness to play a "constructive role" in peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, days after the second summit between the United States and North Korea in Hanoi abruptly ended with no deal over denuclearization.

"The denuclearization issue is highly complicated and sensitive," Zhang Yesui, spokesman for the Chinese legislature, told a press conference, a day before the annual session of the National People's Congress opens in Beijing.

"The maintenance of peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula is the first interest of all parties," Zhang said, adding, China, known as North Korea's major political and economic ally, is "committed to denuclearization and peace mechanism on the peninsula."

Zhang also voiced hope that Washington and Pyongyang will continue talks, saying, "We cannot expect the issue to be resolved with just one or two meetings" between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

During the two-day summit through Thursday, Trump and Kim fell short of a deal after failing to bridge the gap between U.S. insistence on full denuclearization and North Korea's demand for sanctions relief.

The main sticking point was what North Korea offered in return for easing economic sanctions, according to U.S. officials.

At a press conference following the summit, Trump asked for more assistance from Beijing.

"China has been very helpful," Trump said. "I actually called (Chinese President Xi Jinping) just recently to say, 'Hey, you know, whatever you can do on this.' But he has been very helpful at the border, and he's been very, very helpful with, I think, North Korea generally. Could he be a little more helpful? Probably."

China-North Korea relations have been markedly improving after Kim visited Beijing in March last year in his first foreign trip since becoming the supreme leader in the wake of the death of his father in December 2011.

Kim left Vietnam for North Korea on Saturday by special train. Speculation was rife that he may meet with Xi on the way home, but Kim did not appear to stop by Beijing, with security around the main station in the Chinese capital left at normal levels.

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