BEIJING (Reuters) - The Chinese government's top diplomat hopes that planned summits between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the presidents of South Korea and the United States will "take the fuse" out of the situation on the Korean peninsula.
After a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, China's State Councillor Wang Yi said he hoped the summits would bring the issue of North Korea's nuclear programme back into the realm of dialogue and negotiations.
"We all welcome and support the apparent improvement in the situation on the peninsula and appreciate the efforts of all parties," Wang, who is also China's foreign minister, said on Thursday, in comments posted on his ministry's website.
He hoped the three leaders would take the opportunity to completely defuse the situation, he added.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump have both agreed to meet Kim. Trump has traded barbs with the North Korean leader for much of his time in office as Pyongyang pursues development of nuclear weapons capable of hitting the United States.
North Korea was "suffocating" under international sanctions, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said on Thursday, adding, "They need an out."
Speaking at Duke University in North Carolina, Haley said, "When the president ends up speaking with Kim, the conversation has to be about denuclearising. Not some of it, all of it. We don't want an irresponsible actor to have nuclear weapons."
She added, "But we're going into this very cautiously, very much knowing that he's looked at the Iran deal, he's seen what he can get and he's seen how he can push through loopholes, and we're not going to let that happen again."
Last month, China said it won a pledge from Kim, who was on a surprise visit to Beijing for talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, to denuclearise the Korean peninsula.
China and Russia are both permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, which has imposed sanctions on North Korea in a bid to force negotiations with Pyongyang.
Tension on the peninsula has eased following a flurry of diplomatic activity in the lead-up to February's Winter Olympics held in South Korea.
North and South Korea have agreed to hold their first summit in more than a decade on April 27, while Trump has said he would meet Kim by the end of May.
Trump has threatened to withdraw the United States from an accord between Tehran and six world powers, signed in 2015 before he took office, unless France, Britain and Germany help to agree a follow-up pact by that date. Trump does not like the deal's limited duration, among other things.
(Reporting by Tom Daly and Min Zhang; Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)