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N. Korea Seeks China Backing for Engagement Strategy

North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan arrives in Beijing on Wednesday (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan). North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan arrives in Beijing on Wednesday (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan).

A senior North Korean diplomat on Wednesday met with Chinese officials in what analysts believe was an effort to win Chinese backing for Pyongyang's efforts to reengage with the world while still maintaining its devotion to nuclear weapons development, Reuters reported.

In separate recent overtures to South Korea and the United States, the North proposed bilateral talks that would focus on improving diplomatic relations while leaving the long-running nuclear impasse largely untouched. An effort to hold discussions with Seoul ultimately fell through and Washington has signaled it does not find Pyongyang's proposal acceptable.

North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan is expected to use his meeting in the Chinese capital with Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui to see if he can win Chinese support for Pyongyang's strategy for regional re-engagement while continuing its work on nuclear arms, according to Peking University international relations specialist Wang Dong.

"If China's stance is still firm, North Korea will understand that there are no loopholes to exploit," the expert said.

"You can't have your cake and eat it too. I think China will make this clear to North Korea," Wang said.

Pyongyang probably sought Beijing's backing for convening North Korea-U.S. talks, University of Seoul North Korea specialist Hwang Jihwan told the Associated Press. "North Korea will try to strategically use its relationship with China to facilitate dialogue with Washington. It will try to talk to the U.S. through China."

In Washington. U.S. special envoy for North Korea policy Glyn Davies was slated on Wednesday to host the senior nuclear negotiators from Japan and South Korea for trilateral talks that were expected to include a briefing on President Obama's recent summit with Chinese President Xi Jingping, the Yonhap News Agency reported.

Separately, radionuclide expert Mika Nikkinen of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization said it is unlikely the international community will ever know what type of fissile material the North used in its February subterranean atomic explosion unless given access to the testing site. The agency, which tracks global nuclear explosions, in April announced it had uncovered trace indicators of xenon gases that likely were created by the North's third nuclear test -- its most powerful to date, Reuters reported.

International experts want to know if the North used highly enriched uranium, as opposed to its traditional plutonium, to fuel the February atomic device as doing so would indicate the pariah state has made an important technological leap that has implications for nuclear proliferation and reliable access to the ingredients for bomb material.

"In the end -- unless the xenon people get very lucky, very soon -- we just don't know. There is no way to tell," renowned U.S. nuclear weapons expert Siegfried Hecker said to reporters.

Hecker also said that he does not "believe [North Korea] can reliably mount a nuclear warhead on a missile yet." That view is at odds with the opinion of the U.S. Defense Department's intelligence agency though not those of other U.S. intelligence offices.

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