Seoul, Oct 17: A peace treaty formally ending the 1950-1953 Korean War cannot be signed as long as Pyongyang possesses nuclear arms, China's envoy to Seoul said today.
Earlier this month, at only the second summit of the divided Koreas, South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il agreed to seek talks with China and the United States to replace the armistice that ended their fratricidal war with a peace treaty.
''Establish a peace regime on the Korean peninsula when there are still nuclear weapons here? That just does not stand up,'' the Chinese ambassador, Ning Fukui, told a security forum in Seoul.
China is the nearest that hermit North Korea has to an ally.
The United States, which signed the armistice as the leader of UN forces along with North Korea and China, has said it can sign a peace treaty once Pyongyang abandons its nuclear weapons programme.
''To improve relations between North and South Korea and to replace the armistice with a peace treaty, the matter of denuclearising (the North) must be resolved in full,'' Ning said.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said last week that Beijing was ready to play an ''important and constructive'' role in the peace process.
Ning also said it was unclear if the North would finish disabling its nuclear facilities by the end of the year, a step it promised at international talks in exchange for aid and an end to its status as an international pariah.
Under the deal with South Korea, the United States, Japan, Russia and China, Pyongyang is also required to fully disclose its nuclear arms programme.
The top US nuclear envoy Christopher Hill said yesterday he believed that by the end of this year the North would stop its clandestine programme to enrich uranium for weapons, which the North had previously denied having.
Hill said the North, which conducted its first nuclear test a year ago, has produced about 50 kg of weapons-grade plutonium.