China's point man on N. Korea discusses nuke dispute with S.Korea
China's point man on North Korea held talks with officials from the South Korea ahead of crucial six-nation talks aimed at resolving the standoff over the Communist state's nuclear weapons program.Updated: Feb 17, 2004 15:30 IST
China's point man on North Korea held talks with officials from the South Koreaahead of crucial six-nation talks aimed at resolving the standoff over the Communist state's nuclear weapons program.
Vice Foreign minister Wang Yi and South Korea's top Foreign ministry officials called for joint efforts to secure concrete results at the second round of meetings, which begin Feb. 25. Meanwhile, North Korea said it urged Japan to support its offer to freeze all its nuclear activities in return for economic concessions from the United States.
"We hope that substantive results could be made through joint efforts at the second round of talks," Wang said, heading into discussions with Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Soo-hyuck in Seoul. Wang and Lee represented their nations in a first round of talks among the United States, the two Koreas, China, Russia and Japan in August, which ended without much progress.
"Whatever difficulties surface, we must firmly push ahead with the process of peace talks," said Wang, who also discussed the upcoming talks with Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon and Vice Foreign Minister Choi Young-jin.
They had "in-depth" discussions on a range of issues, including the North's nuclear freeze proposal, said Cho Tae-yong, chief of Seoul's newly established task force for the nuclear dispute. He did not elaborate further.
North Korea has offered to freeze all its nuclear activities as a first step in resolving the nuclear dispute, only if Washington provides free oil shipments, lifts economic sanctions and removes the Communist nation from its list of countries that sponsor terrorism.
Washington has demanded that North Korea first start dismantling its nuclear programs.
Before coming to Seoul, Wang discussed the nuclear dispute with North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan.
North Korea said it had won Chinese support for its freeze proposal during Kim's visit to Beijing.
North Korea also pressed Japan to support the proposal during a surprise visit this past week to the Communist country by Japanese diplomats.
North Korea "said that the realization of its proposal for a reward for the freeze of its nuclear activities, the first-phase measure for a simultaneous package solution, would be beneficial to the Japanese side, too," a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said, according to the North's official KCNA news agency.
The unnamed spokesman said his government warned Tokyo against raising at the six-nation talks the issue of Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korean spies in the 1970s, saying "this will bring everything to a collapse."
The United States believes that North Korea has a secret nuclear weapons program based on highly enriched uranium, in addition to its program using plutonium.
North Korea acknowledges a plutonium program, but denies having a uranium program.
Last week, a U.S. administration official said on condition of anonymity that China has refused to accept Washington's contention that the North is developing weapons based on enriched uranium.
First Published: Feb 17, 2004 00:00 IST