BEIJING, March 8 (UPI) -- China's foreign minister said Beijing would be "open" to five-party talks that could work toward North Korea denuclearization.
Wang Yi's statements Tuesday mark a change in position, Yonhap reported.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye had proposed on Feb. 22 the resumption of five-party talks without the North, but Beijing had promptly declined the offer.
Now, China might be reconsidering that approach.
"If [the talks] help bring the issues of the Korean peninsula back to the negotiating table, then [China] takes an open attitude toward three-party, four-party and five-party talks," Wang said.
The top Chinese diplomat noted that China and the Korean peninsula share a contiguous border where "mountains and water join together." For that reason, Wang said, the two sides are in "close understanding," South Korean news service News 1 reported.
Wang also said the North and China share a deep and traditional relationship and that Beijing is ready to support and assist Pyongyang's plans to pursue economic development.
That doesn't mean, however, that China's position on denuclearization has changed, he said, adding sanctions are necessary.
Wang also took subtle aim at the ongoing U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises, saying that recently "the peninsula has been filled with the smell of gunpowder."
The foreign minister said China would not just stand and watch if "the security interests of either Beijing or the Korean peninsula are damaged."
The exercises Key Resolve and Foal Eagle are to be held until April. They are the largest-ever joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises and include 17,000 U.S. troops and 300,000 South Korean soldiers.