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China, S. Korea Work to Find Peaceful Resolution to N. Korea Nuclear Issue - 2003-07-07


South Korea and China are pledging to press reclusive North Korea toward talks to peacefully end the dispute over Pyongyang's nuclear-weapons program.

After meeting with China's President Hu Jintao, South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun said the two nations are making the North Korean nuclear issue a top priority.

President Roh said he and Mr. Hu agreed to work for an early resumption of "direct talks among concerned parties" in the nuclear issue.

President Hu said they agreed on the need to find a peaceful resolution to the dispute. He also said it is vital to address North Korea's security concerns.

Pyongyang has often said it is developing nuclear weapons because it is threatened by the United States.

The nuclear issue erupted last October when Pyongyang said it was secretly working to build nuclear weapons in violation of several international agreements. Since then, North Korea has responded to pressure to stop its weapons program by pulling out of the global Non-Proliferation Treaty and restarting an idled nuclear facility.

North Korea has pushed for talks solely with Washington, while the United States wants South Korea, Japan, China and Russia at future negotiations.

In April, China hosted talks here in Beijing that were a compromise involving the United States, North Korea, and China.

The meeting ended without apparent progress. But China has been in close contact with North Korea and last week sent envoys to Washington and Moscow in the hope of restarting talks.

A South Korean news report says the presidents of South Korea and China also discussed efforts to increase bilateral trade and investment. China wants help curbing the growing trade deficit with South Korea, while Seoul wants to make it easier for Korean companies to operate in southwestern desert areas of China.

Officials from the two nations also signed treaties promoting legal, scientific, and technical cooperation.

Later in his visit, President Roh meets with China's prime minister and gives a speech at a university before heading to China's economic hub, Shanghai.

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