South Korea is cooperating with China to persuade its traditional ally the United States to ease conditions for a resumption of the stalled six-party talks.
It remains to be seen how the U.S. will respond to this odd couple's proposal with representatives now meeting in Washington.
"Given the importance of a summit between Seoul and Beijing, South Korea, China and the U.S. are in negotiations on conditions," Hwang Joon-kook, special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, told reporters on his arrival in Washington, Sunday.
"There should be appropriate conditions before reopening the six-party talks because North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests so far ― two of them five years after the suspension of the talks."
Hwang flew to the U.S. to meet his U.S. counterpart Glyn Davies, the State Department special representative for North Korean affairs, to discuss ways to assess the current security situation on the peninsula as well as resume the suspended negotiations.
His remarks come as South Korea appears poised to create "eased" conditions for a resumption of the talks before the summit with China in late June or early July, seen as an opportunity to give a message to the North to halt its nuclear ambitions.
Last week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met President Park Geun-hye and his South Korean counterpart Yun Byung-se and said that relevant countries for the six-party talks need to make efforts together.
Wang also said that China is ready for its role as an unbiased chair country for the six-party talks, vowing to make more efforts to resume the multilateral denuclearization forum.
However, the fate of the talks will mainly depend on Pyongyang's attitude; given that the Kim Jong-un regime has not shown signs of aggression so far.
Contrary to expectations, the North did not carry out a fourth nuclear test at the end of April, and it agreed with Japan to a full investigation into the abduction of Japanese citizens. The North's chief nuclear envoy met with U.S. experts late last month for informal discussions in Mongolia over the resumption of the talks.
However, it is commonly viewed that the U.S. will not change its stance without the North demonstrating its sincerity to shutter its nuclear program.
To make the situation worse, the White House and Congress are sticking to a more hard-line stance than the State Department, which mainly deals with North Korean negotiations, according to diplomatic sources.
"Currently, the North Korea issue cannot go over big with local U.S. politics," said a diplomatic source.
In addition, given that North Korea appears ready to conduct its fourth nuclear test, this does not help the situation.