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High-level officials to hold N. Korea meet

By the CNN Wire Staff
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South Korean president talks tough
  • NEW: China has also proposed a meeting "to ease the situation," a government spokesman says
  • Government ministers from South Korea and Japan will attend the Washington meeting
  • Tensions are high on the Korean peninsula after North Korea's shelling of an island last week
  • China's proposal involves a meeting of representatives from six countries

(CNN) -- Government ministers from the United States, Japan and South Korea will meet in Washington in early December to discuss North Korea, South Korea's foreign affairs ministry said Tuesday.

The ministry did not provide further details about the date of the meeting.

The divided Korean peninsula -- tense at the best of times -- has been near the boiling point since last Tuesday, when four people died in a North Korean artillery barrage that targeted a South Korean island.

On Monday, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak warned that North Korea would face severe consequences if it launched another military attack across its southern border.

"If the North commits any additional provocations against the South, we will make sure that it pays a dear price without fail," Lee said in a nationally televised address.

North Korea stepped up its threats recently on its southern rival, as well as the United States, if any military activities

infringe on what the communist nation considers its territory.

Leak exposes China's N. Korea views
Six party talks with North Korea
  • North Korea
  • Diplomacy
  • South Korea

On Tuesday a top North Korean official arrived in Beijing, China, CNN affiliate YTN said.

The network reported that Choe Tae Bok, chairman of North Korea's Supreme People's Assembly, is on a five-day visit to China.

It is the first visit to China by a North Korean official since last week's shelling of Yeonpyeong Island.

As both North Korea's largest trading partner and a country engaged in diplomatic talks with South Korea, China is dealing with both sides of an increasingly divided Korean peninsula.

On Sunday, a top Chinese envoy met with South Korea's president.

Over the weekend China also called for an emergency meeting of the six major powers involved in talks about the Korean peninsula.

Hong Lei, a spokesman for China's foreign affairs ministry, told reporters Tuesday that such talks would be an important step.

"We made the proposal to ease the situation and to provide a platform for parties to have dialogue. ...To do this at an early date is in the common interest of all parties," he said.

South Korea said Sunday that it did not think the time was right for a resumption of the six-party talks but said it would "bear in mind" the Chinese proposal.

In Washington, a State Department official said that the United States is consulting with its allies but that resumed six-party talks "cannot substitute for action by North Korea to comply with its obligations."

CNN's Jo Kent, Tim Schwarz and Jane Lee contributed to this report.

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