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China pushes N. Korea on talks

Wu (L) meets with North Korean parliament chief Kim on Wednesday.
Wu (L) meets with North Korean parliament chief Kim on Wednesday.

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BEIJING, China -- Though he called the North Korea nuclear issue "complicated", China's No. 2 leader Wu Bangguo has told Pyongyang that dialogue was the only way to end the standoff, Chinese state media report.

Wu -- who heads a delegation which also includes Beijing's point man on dealing with Pyongyang, Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi -- arrived in North Korea Wednesday for a "goodwill visit" which has raised hopes of new headway into resolving the year-long crisis.

"The Korean nuclear issue must be solved peacefully through talks, despite its complexities or whatever trouble or turbulence may be met along the way," the China Daily quoted Wu as telling North Korean parliament chief Kim Yong-nam during their meeting on Wednesday.

Wu -- National People's Congress chairman and No. 2 the Communist Party hierarchy -- is the most senior leader from China to visit its impoverished and isolated neighbor since former President Jiang Zemin in late 2001.

Wu told Kim China would continue providing assistance, within its capacity, to North Korea, and would encourage Chinese enterprises to cooperate with the North, Xinhua reported.

China -- one of North Korea's few allies and the major provider of food and fuel aid -- has played a key role in convincing Pyongyang to come to the table for three-way talks in Beijing in April and six-nation negotiations in August, also in the Chinese capital.

Both meetings have ended inconclusively. But recent murmurings in the Japanese and South Korean press, as well as from South Korea's Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun, have indicated another round of multi-party talks may take place before the end of the year.

Wu's trip has increased hope Beijing can convince Pyongyang to commit to more discussions, with China playing host again and the U.S., Japan, Russia and South Korea taking part.

Wu told Kim the August talks, and the earlier three-way talks with the U.S. and China, had been key in preventing further deterioration of the situation, Xinhua said.

The standoff flared up October 2002 when U.S. officials said Pyongyang admitted to secretly pursuing a nuclear weapons program in violation of a 1994 treaty.

North Korea has insisted it would not begin to dismantle its weapons program and facilities until it had a nonaggression pact with the White House that the U.S. would not attack.

Until recently, the Bush administration had been adamant it would not be blackmailed into making concessions with Pyongyang and repeated that North Korea must act first in reigning in its nuclear ambitions.

The White House has said it would not attack North Korea but has ruled out any such nonaggression pact.

However, earlier this month, U.S. President George W. Bush said he was prepared to put on paper with America's partner a pledge declaring "we won't attack you."

Bush said that though the U.S. was willing to sign such a document, it would not be a treaty.


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