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US, China Urge North Korea to Return to Nuclear Disarmament Talks


U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in China, where she and Chinese officials have joined in urging North Korea to return to nuclear disarmament negotiations following its October 9 nuclear test. China is offering hope of a peaceful resolution, with a Beijing envoy who visited North Korea this week saying his trip was not in vain.

Condoleezza Rice met with Chinese President Hu Jintao and other officials, hoping to allay some of Beijing's concerns about United Nations sanctions approved last week in response to North Korea's nuclear test.

China - as the chief supplier of food and fuel to the impoverished North - is perceived as having more leverage over Pyongyang than any other nation. However, experts say Beijing fears that applying the sanctions too forcefully may cause the North Korean government to collapse, and send droves of refugees into Chinese territory.

At the start of her visit Friday, Rice met with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, and said they spoke about the importance of fully implementing the resolution to stop North Korea from shipping banned weapons materials.

"We also talked about the importance of leaving open a path to negotiation through the six-party talks because, after all, President Hu and President Bush are both committed to a diplomatic solution to this problem," she said.

China offered hope of a diplomatic solution on Friday. Tang Jiaxuan, President Hu's envoy to Pyongyang this week, told Secretary Rice that his visit to North Korea "has not been in vain." Tang met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il - his first known meeting with a foreign dignitary since the October 9 nuclear test.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency quotes Chinese officials in Beijing as saying Kim told Tang Pyongyang has no plans to conduct further tests. The report was not independently verified.

Chinese officials gave few details on Tang's Pyongyang visit, but Foreign Minister Li told reporters Friday, both sides discussed how to restart the stalled six-nation talks, which also include Japan, Russia and South Korea. The talks aim to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear programs.

Chinese President Hu Jintao told Secretary Rice China is willing to make common efforts with all sides to deal with the issue calmly, and to act cautiously to - " prevent the situation from deteriorating or losing control."

At the same time, the Chinese state news agency, Xinhua, quoted envoy Tang Jiaxuan as urging the United States to take a more active and flexible attitude toward North Korea.

China is the third stop on Rice's tour, which is aimed at building support for implementing the sanctions against the North. The secretary of state earlier visited Tokyo and Seoul. She heads to Russia Saturday.

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