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US, North Korea Should Hold Direct Talks, urges China - 2003-01-21

China is refuting U.S. comments that it would not oppose bringing the North Korean nuclear crisis to the U.N. Security Council for consideration. China maintains the best solution is for Washington and Pyongyang to hold direct talks. China Tuesday appeared to undercut U.S. efforts to bring North Korean tensions to the U.N. Security Council.

Just a day after Washington's top envoy for arms control held consultations in Beijing, Chinese officials dismissed his impressions of their talks.

Monday, Under Secretary of State John Bolton told reporters he believed China would not oppose U.N. involvement in the dispute over North Korea's nuclear programs.

But Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said bringing in the U.N. Security Council at the present time is premature.

Ms. Zhang said at a news conference in Beijing that Washington and Pyongyang should resume direct talks as soon as possible, "without making the situation more complicated."

Beijing is Pyongyang's last major ally and a large donor of food and energy. It has repeatedly called for dialogue between the United States and North Korea, and has also offered to host talks.

Without Chinese support, Washington could find it difficult to use the U.N. Security Council to pressure Pyongyang on its nuclear weapons program. China is a permanent member of the Security Council, and as such can veto any action proposed by Washington.

There has been a flurry of diplomatic activity in the past two weeks to find a way to overcome U.S. and North Korean pre-conditions for holding direct negotiations.

Also Tuesday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov said he held "some optimism" that the North Korean nuclear dispute could be resolved.

Mr. Losyukov spoke to reporters in Beijing after a three-day visit to Pyongyang, where he had a rare meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. But he would give no details before he briefs the Russian president. Mr. Losyukov presented a plan to North Korean officials proposing North Korea give up its nuclear ambitions in exchange for security guarantees and economic aid.

The Russian envoy also discussed North Korea with Chinese Foreign Ministry officials.

Chinese spokeswoman Ms. Zhang praised Russian diplomatic involvement. She said China values any efforts that are conducive to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.