Tue, Jul 08, 2003 - Page 5 News List

S Korean president Roh arrives in China's capital

DIPLOMACY South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun arrived in Beijing with the aim of discussing how to peacefully settle the North Korean nuclear stalemate

AFP , BEIJING

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun arrived for talks with Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) yesterday, as the two sides with most to lose from conflict on the Korean peninsula grapple with how to break the North Korean nuclear stalemate.

The trip is Roh's first to China since he became president in February and he is expected to cement a common stance with Beijing on the peaceful resolution of the North Korean issue, government officials said.

"Everyone believes the peaceful resolution of the [North Korean] issue will safeguard peace, stability and development on the Korean peninsula," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Kong Quan said.

This is "also important to the maintenance of peace, stability and development in Northeast Asia and the entire Asian region."

Roh was whisked away by a waiting motorcade and was to receive an official military welcome in front of the Great Hall of the People near Tiananmen Square later yesterday before heading into summit talks.

He is expected to be briefed by Hu on the latest Chinese efforts at getting North Korea to renounce its threat to develop nuclear weapons and enticing the regime with incentives to develop its moribund economy.

Roh will likely lay out Seoul's efforts toward reunification with the North and brief Hu on the latest position in Washington on how to deal with North Korea's Stalinist leader Kim Jong-il.

Last November, North Korea acknowledged a secretive nuclear weapons program which has led to an escalation in tensions in North Asia, with South Korea and Japan fearing Pyongyang's increasing capability to launch a nuclear missile strike.

In April, China scrambled to broker three party talks on the issue with Washington and Pyong-yang and is hoping to set up a second round of discussions which are also aimed at committing the US to a peaceful resolution.

Washington has demanded "verifiable and irreversible end to North Korea's nuclear weapons programs," a demand that if met could push forward efforts at reunification of the Korean peninsula and North Korea's greater integration with the international community.

Today, Roh will meet with Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) and parliamentary head Wu Bangguo (吳邦國), who along with Hu are China's highest ranking Communist Party officials.

All three stepped into their current state posts in March.

He will also deliver a speech to students at Beijing's Tsinghua University, hold a meeting with business leaders and visit a Hyundai Motor Co factory before heading to Shanghai.

Since normalizing relations in 1992, South Korea and China have watched bilateral trade skyrocket from some US$5.0 billion in 1992 to over US$44 billion in 2002, according to Chinese statistics.

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