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China Calls for Talks, Stability on Korean Peninsula

People arrive from Yeonpyeong Island, at Incheon port, west of Seoul, South Korea, 23 Nov 2010

People arrive from Yeonpyeong Island, at Incheon port, west of Seoul, South Korea, 23 Nov 2010

China is calling for all sides to work toward "peace and stability" after North Korea shelled the homes of South Korean civilians. The Chinese Foreign Ministry also calls for new six-nation talks with North Korea, even though the United States has ruled that out for now.

At Tuesday's Foreign Ministry briefing in Beijing spokesman Hong Lei said only that China has noted the reports of a North Korean attack on South Korea.

Hong says China expresses concern over the situation, but is still working to verify the situation.

He also said China hopes all relevant parties "do more to contribute to peace and stability on the Korean peninsula."

North Korea hit a South Korean island with scores of artillery shells Tuesday afternoon, setting homes ablaze. South Korea's military fired back in one of the worst outbreaks of violence on the divided peninsula in more than three decades.

China is North Korea's closest ally, and is Pyongyang's largest source of economic and diplomatic support.

The relationship stretches back decades. Chinese troops fought alongside North Korean soldiers during the Korean War in 1951-1953. This year, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il visited China twice.

The Chinese spokesman also said his government is calling for the speedy resumption of six-party talks aimed at persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons programs.

Hong says China's firm position is that all nuclear differences be resolved through dialogue and consultation.

The U.S. envoy to the six party talks, Stephen Bosworth, is in Beijing, after meeting with officials in Japan and South Korea. His visit comes after North Korea recently showed U.S. academics what appears to be uranium enrichment work at a new nuclear facility.

Earlier Tuesday Bosworth ruled out six-party talks for now, saying they would not be possible as long as North Korea has active nuclear weapons programs.

In the talks with the United States, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia, Pyongyang has promised to shut down its nuclear weapons programs, in return for economic aid, security guarantees and greater diplomatic recognition. However, the negotiations, which China has organized, have stalled since 2008.