Sat, Oct 21, 2006 - Page 4 News List

North Korea: US, China call for talks to reconvene

DIALOGUE Condoleezza Rice, in Beijing to lobby for the enforcement of UN sanctions on North Korea, struck a conciliatory tone with China's Li Zhaoxing


US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and China's foreign minister yesterday called for resumed talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear program and appealed to the North for restraint amid fears it might conduct a second nuclear test.

Rice and Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing (李肇星) said they agreed on enforcing UN sanctions imposed for the North's Oct. 9 nuclear test. But they gave no indication they agreed on tougher measures. China has been reluctant to push its isolated ally too hard for fear it might collapse.

"We hope all relevant parties will maintain coolheadedness, adopt a responsible approach and adhere to peaceful dialogue as the main approach," Li said at a joint appearance before reporters.

Rice flew to Beijing after visiting Tokyo and Seoul on a regional tour to lobby for support in enforcing UN sanctions imposed on the North last week. She said she and Li discussed the importance of enforcing the sanctions to prevent "trade in illegal materials, dangerous materials."

"We also talked about the importance of leaving open a path to negotiations through the six-party talks," Rice said.

The talks, which include the US, the two Koreas, host China, Japan and Russia, have been stalled since late last year.

Rice's conciliatory tone appeared to be aimed at keeping Beijing's cooperation, which is key to enforcing any sanctions.

Li assured Rice that Beijing would carry out its obligations.

"China has an excellent track record in playing a constructive role in the international community and in honoring all of our commitments," he said.

Hopes were high that Beijing might discourage Pyongyang from conducting a new test after a Chinese envoy gave North Korean leader Kim Jong-il a personal message from Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) on Thursday.

Rice and Li didn't mention that visit, and Beijing has not released details of Hu's message or Kim's response.

Yesterday, a South Korean newspaper reported that Kim told the Chinese envoy, Tang Jiaxuan (唐家璇), the North would return to nuclear talks if Washington drops financial sanctions.

"If the US makes a concession to some degree, we will also make a concession to some degree, whether it be bilateral talks or six-party talks," Kim was quoted as saying by the Chosun Ilbo, which cited diplomatic sources in China.

The North has boycotted the talks since the US imposed sanctions last year on North Korean companies accused of counterfeiting US currency and money-laundering and on a bank in the Chinese territory of Macau that dealt with them.

Kim also apologized for the nuclear test to the Chinese envoy, the newspaper reported.

Tang's delegation included Beijing's nuclear envoy Wu Dawei (武大偉) and Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo (戴秉國), according to Liu.

Also yesterday, employees of Chinese banks said they have suspended financial transactions to North Korea under orders from Beijing.

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