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Chinese Envoy to Push North Korea to Rejoin Nuclear Talks

A Chinese envoy flew to North Korea Saturday to urge Pyongyang to reconsider its decision to abandon talks on its nuclear weapons program.

A leading Chinese diplomat headed to Pyongyang Saturday where he is expected to press North Korea to rejoin nuclear disarmament talks with China, South Korea, Japan, Russia and the United States.

Envoy Wang Jiarui's visit is the first to North Korea by any of the negotiating parties since Pyongyang indefinitely suspended talks last week, stating it has nuclear weapons and plans to build more.

China is North Korea's main source of economic support and has used this leverage in the past to press Pyongyang into talks. China has hosted three inconclusive rounds since 2003.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Kong Quan, would not confirm if economic incentives would be offered this time.

He would only say the two sides would exchange views on issues of common interest.

This caps a week of diplomatic consultations on North Korea's actions. The U.S. envoy to the six-party talks, Ambassador Christopher Hill, also went to Beijing. U.S. State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher says Mr. Hill called on China to step up the pressure on North Korea.

"He reiterated that six-party talks are the best way to resolve through peaceful diplomacy the concerns of the international community and they're the best way to end North Korea's isolation," he said.

North Korea's plutonium and uranium-based nuclear weapons programs violate international agreements signed by Pyongyang.

However, North Korea claims it needs a nuclear arsenal to rebuff a possible U.S. attack and has repeatedly said it will only dismantle its programs in exchange for aid and security guarantees from the United States.

Washington rejects the preconditions and insists North Korea comply with long-standing accords before considering incentives.

Diplomats familiar with the talks suggest North Korea may simply be looking for more favorable terms before abandoning its nuclear weapons program.