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Australian PM Stresses China's Role in N. Korean Talks - 2003-08-18


Australian Prime Minister John Howard is throwing his country's full support behind the upcoming talks on North Korea's nuclear program set for next week in Beijing. Where Mr. Howard stressed the pivotal role China can play in resolving the dispute.

Speaking to journalists Monday after meeting Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao in Beijing, Mr. Howard said Australia and China have identical goals on the North Korean nuclear issue. "We are both opposed to North Korean having nuclear capacity. We both want the issue resolved in a peaceful fashion. We both support very strongly the six-party talks that are to take place here in Beijing," he said. "And we both recognize that it will afford an opportunity for the Americans and the North Koreans, within the embrace of that meeting, to have discussions."

The Australian prime minister's visit to China comes a little more than one week ahead of the Beijing talks - which will include representatives from the United States, China, North Korea, South Korea, Japan and Russia.

China is North Korea's closest ally and aid provider. Mr. Howard thanked Beijing for playing a more active diplomatic role in trying to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue. "No country is more important than China," he says. "China has more influence on North Korea, more than any other country in the world. And China has played a wholly constructive, positive role."

Beijing hosted talks in April with the United States and North Korea - but no progress was made.

Meanwhile, China's official Xinhua news agency says a senior Chinese military delegation has gone to North Korea for what it called a "goodwill visit." Chinese media say the trip reciprocates a visit by a North Korean military leader to China, just before the talks in April.

In North Korea, official media repeated Pyongyang's demands for a non-aggression pact and diplomatic recognition from the United States before it will agree to dismantle its nuclear weapons program. The issue has dominated Asian-Pacific security meetings since October - when the United States accused North Korea of having a secret nuclear weapons program in violation of several international accords.

North Korea has since publicly taken steps to restart idle nuclear facilities, withdrawn from the global nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and threatened war if the United Nations were to impose sanctions.

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