BEIJING — The leaders of China and South Korea called for North Korea to resume negotiations on its nuclear disarmament after a meeting Thursday in which they discussed ways to draw their isolated and erratic neighbor back into dialogue with the outside world.
The summit in Beijing marked the beginning of a four-day visit by South Korea's new president, Park Geun-hye. It comes at a time when China, Pyongyang's biggest ally and longtime benefactor, has signaled unusual displeasure with the North after it recently carried out a missile launch and nuclear test and issued a barrage of provocative rhetoric despite Beijing's protests.
"We shared an understanding that North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons cannot be tolerated under any circumstances," Park said at a news conference with China President Xi Jinping.
Xi said he and Park agreed to work together on matters related to the North but emphasized the need for Pyongyang to restart six-nation talks on nuclear disarmament.
In the days before the meeting, Park made clear that North Korea was her overriding concern, telling South Korean media she would try to boost cooperation with China "to make North Korea come forward for sincere talks."
Underscoring her hope of strengthening and leveraging economic ties with China, Park is accompanied by high-ranking executives from South Korea's biggest companies, including Samsung, LG and Hyundai Motors.
As for China, many analysts say it is using the meetings with Park to signal its displeasure with North Korea and increase pressure on the government there. Many note that Park is meeting with Xi before North Korea's young new leader, Kim Jong Un, has had an opportunity to do so.
Chinese officials are considered unlikely to abandon North Korea anytime soon, fearful of the instability, the swarms of refugees and the unified, U.S.-friendly Korean government that might ensue on its doorstep.
Still, after North Korea's nuclear test this spring, China agreed to increased sanctions on its ally and cut off access for some North Korean banks.
In the past, said Jin Canrong, an international relations professor at Renmin University in Beijing, China was reluctant to publicly discuss North Korean issues with the South or the United States, out of consideration for its ally's feelings.
"But now, China doesn't care what North Korea thinks at all and discusses these agendas openly in public," he said.