Tue, Oct 25, 2011 - Page 5 News List

China urges N Korea to talk to foes

‘THE RIGHT DIRECTION’:China’s vice premier said negotiation and dialogue between the North, the South and the US was key for regional stability

AP, BEIJING

China urged ally North Korea to improve its strained ties with longtime foes the US and South Korea, state media reported yesterday, as US and North Korean diplomats prepared to talk about restarting negotiations on Pyongyang’s nuclear programs.

On a visit to North Korea, Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang (李克強) told North Korean Prime Minister Choe Yong-rim on Sunday that improving ties with the US and South Korea would promote stability in the region, Xinhua news agency reported.

Li’s message seems intended to further diplomacy on North Korea’s nuclear program that is already under way and to enhance China’s role in it. Li’s three-day trip to North Korea is being immediately followed by a two-day visit to South Korea, underscoring Beijing’s good ties with both Koreas and its desire to revive the stalled six-nation disarmament negotiations.

US and North Korean diplomats were scheduled to meet in Geneva yesterday and today to see about resuming the negotiations, which also include South Korea, Japan and Russia, as well as China. North Korea walked out on talks in 2009 — and exploded a second nuclear-test device — but now wants to re-engage.

Li told the North Korean prime minister that China supports North Korean efforts “to take the right direction for engagement and dialogues, resume the six-party talks at an early date,” Xinhua reported.

China has for years urged North Korea to refrain from ratcheting up tensions and to undertake serious reforms to strengthen an anemic economy that is failing to meet basic needs for its people. The visit of the Chinese vice premier is highlighting North Korea’s growing dependence on China.

Ahead of Li’s arrival on Sunday, Xinhua reported that China-North Korean trade nearly doubled in the first seven months of the year, rising to US$3.1 billion, an 87 percent increase over the same period last year.

North Korea relies heavily on China for food and fuel aid and many consumer products. Chinese companies are the main investors in North Korean mining, and the sides recently signed agreements on road building and jointly developing an industrial park on an island near the Chinese city of Dandong.

“The economic and trade cooperation between the two countries has shown great potential, with bilateral trade and investment volume reaching new highs,” Xinhua said, citing Chinese Ambassador to North Korea Liu Hongcai (劉洪才).

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