(ATTN: UPDATES with comments by top S. Korean envoy in U.S.)
WASHINGTON, Nov. 9 (Yonhap) -- Top officials of the United States and China met in Washington on Friday to discuss their bilateral relationship and efforts to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons.
In a press conference following the talks, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he urged China's cooperation on sanctions enforcement to help achieve the denuclearization of North Korea.
"I expressed in our meeting today the importance of remaining united in pursuit of a final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea as agreed to by Chairman Kim in Singapore," he said, referring to the historic summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in June.
"This means maintaining pressure through the continued strict enforcement of all U.N. Security Council (sanctions) resolutions," Pompeo said, adding that China's cooperation "will help achieve meaningful breakthroughs on this important denuclearization issue."
The U.S. and China have been at odds over sanctions policy, with Washington insisting that the sanctions remain on until North Korea fully dismantles its nuclear program and Beijing calling for a gradual easing of sanctions in return for Pyongyang's disarmament steps.
Speaking alongside Pompeo, Yang Jiechi, director of the Chinese Communist Party's Office of Foreign Affairs, said the two sides held "in-depth" talks on the Korean Peninsula.
"China reaffirmed its position and commitment to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula, and a solution through conversation and negotiation," he said.
On the sanctions, he said China will "continue to enforce strictly" the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions.
And on the diplomatic dialogue between the U.S. and North Korea, he said China hopes that the two sides will "meet each other halfway, accommodate each other's legitimate concerns, build trust and advance the denuclearization process and the establishment of a peace mechanism in tandem."
His remarks come after a scheduled Thursday meeting between Pompeo and a top North Korean official in New York was postponed at the last minute due to what the U.S. said were scheduling issues.
The sudden cancellation raised speculation that the North canceled the meeting in anger over the U.S. refusal to lift sanctions until after the full denuclearization of the regime.
Friday's meeting, called the U.S.-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue, was also joined by U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis and his Chinese counterpart, Wei Fenghe.
Separately, South Korean Ambassador to the United States Cho Yoon-je called for confidence to further move North Korea's denuclearization forward and bring peace to the Korean Peninsula.
"We should note that confidence is the key to take a much bigger step in the future," Cho said, calling North Korea's suspension of nuclear and missile tests, and dismantlement of its nuclear test site "a big progress" in building confidence.
The envoy made the comments in a speech earlier in the day after receiving the Distinguished Diplomatic Service Award from the World Affairs Council-Washington, DC, a nonprofit nonpartisan group, in recognition of his service to foreign affairs.
The award has been given each year since 2009, and Cho is the first South Korean to receive it.
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