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Chinese Official to Visit N. Korea, Amid Continuing Nuclear Concerns - 2003-10-23

China says it is sending a high-level official to North Korea next week as it continues its efforts to mediate a solution to the North Korean nuclear crisis.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said Wu Bangguo, chairman of China's lawmaking body, the National People's Congress, will head a delegation to Pyongyang. Mr. Wu is to arrive in North Korea on October 29 for a three-day visit.

Ms. Zhang did not give any details of what will be on the agenda when the Chinese officials meet with the North Korean leadership, saying only that they will discuss matters of regional importance.

"Both sides will exchange in-depth views on regional international affairs and issues of common concern," she said. "Since this is a state delegation, it will have both political and military components."

Diplomats say Mr. Wu and his delegation will discuss North Korea's nuclear-weapons program. North Korea admitted during the past year that it has continued to develop its nuclear capabilities in violation of its non-proliferation agreements.

China, North Korea's closest ally, has been delicately working to get North Korea to attend a new round of six-party negotiations. An earlier round in August that brought together Japan, Russia, the United States, and North and South Korea, ended without a breakthrough.

The United States demands that North Korea dismantle its nuclear-weapons program. North Korea refuses, saying it is developing its nuclear capabilities in order to defend itself from a U.S. attack.

This week, North Korea rejected a new proposal by President Bush, who offered to give Pyongyang multi-national security guarantees if it dismantles its nuclear-weapons program. North Korea called the offer laughable and instead insisted that the United States enter into a formal non-aggression treaty.