Wed, Oct 25, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Kim didn't apologize for test: envoy

'NOT ACCURATE' A Chinese government press official countered South Korean reports that the Dear Leader had said he regretted his country's recent atomic blasts

AP , BEIJING

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il did not apologize for his regime's nuclear test when a special envoy from China's president visited Pyongyang last week, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said yesterday.

South Korean news reports said last week that Kim had expressed regret for the Oct. 9 test during a visit by State Councilor Tang Jia-xuan (唐家璇), who delivered a personal message from Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤).

"These reports are certainly not accurate," ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao (劉建超) said at a regular press briefing. "We haven't heard any information that Kim apologized for the test."

Liu also said that the North Koreans told Tang's delegation that "it did not have the will to carry out a second test."

"But if it faces pressure, North Korea reserves the right to take further actions," Liu said, citing Tang.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had earlier cast doubt on the reports. She told reporters that Tang had not mentioned the apology or no-test promise when she met him in Beijing on Friday, a day after Tang met Kim in Pyongyang.

Liu's comments appeared to be a warning that if goaded by international weapons and financial sanctions imposed in punishment for its test, the isolated nation could again defy international warnings with a second nuclear test.

In a sign China took Kim's threat seriously, Liu also warned against expanding the sanctions.

"All parties should not willfully interpret or expand the sanctions," he said.

China, which has traditionally opposed sanctions and advocated dialogue, supported the UN Security Council action against North Korea and condemned the North's test in unusually forceful language.

But Beijing also fears sanctions that could squeeze impoverished North Korea so hard it collapses, causing instability on its borders and a wave of refugees.

"Sanctions are not the end. They should serve the goal of peacefully settling the crisis through dialogue and consultation," Liu said.

He added that during Tang's visit, North Korea had restated that it was willing to return to six-party talks aimed at dismantling its nuclear program.

The talks, which are also attended by the US, South Korea, Japan and Russia, have been stalled for nearly a year.

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