Fri, Oct 20, 2006 - Page 4 News List

North Korea: Chinese delegation sends `strong' message to Kim

AFP , SEOUL

Elderly anti-US protesters demand that the US reopen negotiations with North Korea as they wait outside the foreign ministry for the arrival of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Seoul yesterday.

PHOTO: AFP

A special envoy of Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) held "significant" talks yesterday with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il as world powers warned the Stalinist regime not to conduct a second atom bomb test.

Tang Jiaxuan (唐家璇), leading a delegation of senior Chinese government officials, was carrying a message, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Liu Jianchao (劉建超) told reporters in Beijing.

He described the visit to Pyong-yang as "significant" in trying to resolve the crisis triggered by North Korea's Oct. 9 nuclear weapons test.

First meeting

It is thought to be Kim's first announced meeting with any foreigner since the test.

"This is a very significant visit against the backdrop of major changes in the situation on the Korean Peninsula," Liu said.

The North's state news agency KCNA confirmed that the Chinese delegation had arrived but did not mention any meeting.

Two vice foreign ministers -- Wu Dawei (武大偉), who is also China's top negotiator to stalled six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear program, and Dai Bingguo (戴秉國) -- were also part of the delegation, Liu said.

A senior US State Department official said yesterday that the delegation would give North Korea a "very strong" warning against conducting any more nuclear tests.

"I'm pretty convinced the Chin-ese would have a very strong message about future tests," said the official who was accompanying US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on her Asian tour.

Tang last week met with US President George W. Bush in Washington and also visited Moscow amid the hurried diplomacy that led to last Saturday's unanimous UN Security Council resolution imposing sanctions.

China, North Korea's closest ally,is seen as critical to ensuring the measures have real bite.

The UN text calls on North Korea to return to negotiations over its nuclear program and imposes a range of financial, trade and military restrictions.

Second test?

Rice was due to hold talks in Seoul with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso -- whom she had met in Tokyo -- and South Korean counterpart Ban Ki-Moon, who is also the incoming head of the UN.

"I'm quite certain there will be additional measures of some kind" if there is a second test, she said before leaving Japan.

Ban said the international reaction would be "much more severe."

Both Beijing and Seoul have balked at the idea of inspecting North Korean cargo, which is allowed for under the sanctions, fearing it could provoke Pyongyang.

The US says the measure is needed to halt transfer of weapons of mass destruction to US opponents such as al-Qaeda and Iran.

US officials said Rice would ask Seoul to take a full part in an inspection initiative.

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