Mon, Feb 14, 2005 - Page 1 News List

North Korea gets heat on nukes from China and Russia

TOUGH TALK Beijing and Moscow, who are considered sympathetic to the hermit kingdom, upped their pressure on Pyongyang to negotiate

AFP , Seoul

North Korea yesterday came under increasing pressure from its traditional allies China and Russia to return to multi-party talks on eliminating its nuclear weapons program.

The diplomatic offensive came as the US said the six-nation talks were the only appropriate forum for negotiations and South Korea said it would urge Beijing to use its influence with Pyongyang to bring the North back in.

The isolated Stalinist regime on Thursday announced it possesses nuclear weapons and was dropping out of the multilateral talks, accusing the US of planning to invade.

China at the weekend said it would maintain the pressure on the North, with Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing (李肇星) telling US counterpart Condoleezza Rice that Beijing would keep working to jump-start the talks.

"[China] will strive to make the situation develop in a positive direction so that the six-party talks could resume as soon as possible," Li was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying in the telephone talks Saturday.

Russia, traditionally considered sympathetic to the North, issued an unusually strongly worded statement that Pyongyang would have made the "wrong choice" if it decided to quit the discussions.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said at a meeting of security experts in the German city of Munich Saturday: "If the information in question proves accurate, I would say that North Korea has made the wrong choice."

"I believe we should do all we can to keep that state in the treaty framework," he said.

The reactions highlighted growing US-led international pressure on the North since it claimed to have already developed nuclear weapons.

Speaking in Washington, where he has been holding talks with US officials on the standoff, South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon said Seoul would meanwhile try to persuade China to draw the North Koreans back to the talks.

Ban was to meet Rice today to discuss the issue.

"We shared the understanding that China intensify its effort to persuade North Korea and we've agreed to undertake diplomatic efforts toward that goal," Ban was quoted by Yonhap news agency as saying.

China plans to send an envoy to Pyongyang this month in an attempt to get the talks to resume, according to Seoul officials.

Wang Jiarui, head of the International Department of the Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee, will soon visit North Korea to discuss the nuclear issue, Seoul's YTN television said yesterday. Officials in Seoul and Beijing declined to confirm the report.

The nuclear issue is also expected to be a key agenda item when Japan's defense minister and foreign minister visit Washington on Feb. 19.

The US, the two Koreas, China, Russia and Japan met for three rounds of talks until June last year. But a fourth round failed to take place as planned in September, with Pyongyang accusing Washington of a "hostile" policy.

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