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South Korea Hopes Kim Jong Il's China Visit Spurs Arms Talks

South Korea has expressed hope that the recent visit by North Korean leader Kim Jong Il to China could lead to early resumption of nuclear disarmament talks. South Korea's foreign minister briefed Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the latest developments during a visit to New York.

South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon says North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's China trip could have "very positive implications" for the stalled six-party talks on Pyongyang's nuclear program.

His comments at U.N. headquarters came shortly after North Korea acknowledged that Mr. Kim had made the visit. He was reported to have met with Chinese leaders, including President Hu Jintao.

News agencies quoted Mr. Hu as saying that the six-party talks, involving both Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States, are an "efficient mechanism" to solve the nuclear deadlock.

South Korean foreign minister Ban said he was hopeful the six-party talks would resume "as soon as possible".

"It is a source of encouragement that the North Korean government, after the chairman Kim Jong Il's visit to China, made an announcement that Chairman Kim had reaffirmed his commitment to de-nuclearize the Korean peninsula, and only resolution of the North Korean nuclear issues through dialogue, though six party talks," he said. "We hope the six party talks should be resumed as soon as possible so we will be again dealing with the implementation process of joint statement which was adopted on September 19 last year."

Last September, the six parties issued their first joint statement. In it, North Korea agreed to abandon its nuclear programs in exchange for aid and security guarantees.

The six-party grouping met again in November. Those talks stalled over North Korea's demand that the United States ease economic sanctions. Washington's ambassador to South Korea recently charged Pyongyang with using the sanctions issue as a pretext to delay the talks.

The South Korean foreign minister told reporters he had discussed Kim Jong Il's China visit during a 45-minute meeting Wednesday with Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Mr. Ban is among those being considered possible successors to Mr. Annan when his term as secretary-general ends at the end of this year.

He declined to discuss his possible candidacy with reporters, saying only that he hoped to be able to talk more about it at some unspecified later date. But he did acknowledge what many Asian U.N. diplomats are saying, that it is "Asia's turn" to have a secretary-general.

Only one Asian has led the U.N. That was Oo Thant of Burma, whose term ended in 1971.