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North Korean Leader Pledges Commitment to Nuclear-Free Peninsula

  • Kurt Achin

Diplomatic activity on the North Korean nuclear issue is picking up steam. North Korean leaderKim Jong Il has reportedly told a Chinese official that he is committed to a nuclear-free country, while dispatching his own senior nuclear negotiator to Beijing.

Chinese news media says Chinese envoy Wang Jiarui, currently visiting Pyongyang, gave North Korean leader Kim Jong Il an invitation for talks with President Hu Jintao in Beijing.

During their meeting, Mr. Kim reportedly endorsed a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu says the two countries promised to keep working together.

He says China is ready to strengthen practical cooperation to properly handle the nuclear issue. North Korea, he says, is ready to continue talking to the "relevant parties" on the issue.

Meanwhile, senior United Nations envoy Lynn Pascoe is in Pyongyang to meet North Korean officials, and North Korean nuclear negotiator Kim Kye Kwan arrived in Beijing. The flurry of diplomatic activity suggests to some regional experts that North Korea may be about to rejoin six-nation talks aimed at ending its nuclear weapons programs.

Yang Moo-jin, a scholar at Seoul's University of North Korean Studies, says the prospect of six party talks is "ripening," like a fruit.

China, South Korea, Russia, Japan and the United States have tried for about seven years to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program in exchange for diplomatic recognition and economic assistance. North Korea has tested two nuclear explosives, and has boycotted the six-nation process for a year.

Professor Yang says it is an optimistic sign that Tuesday's pledge of a nuclear-free peninsula came straight from Kim Jong Il's mouth.

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