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South Korea Urges China to Use Influence with North Korea Over Missile Launch

The South Korean Foreign Minister has urged China to use its influence to persuade North Korea not to proceed with the test of a ballistic missile. The South Korean and Chinese foreign ministers also discussed stalled negotiations over Pyongyang's nuclear program.

The request from South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon came in a closed-door meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing in Beijing.

Lee Hyuck, director-general of South Korea's Northeast Asian bureau, who attended the one-hour talks between the two foreign ministers, said the two sides agreed to make joint efforts to resolve the North Korean missile issue, and to resume six-party talks on Pyongyang's nuclear program.

"Both sides believe that under the current situation relevant parties should stick to the direction of solving this issue through dialogue and peaceful means, avoid intensifying antagonism and tension, and to press ahead with the resumption of the six-party talks at an early date so as to maintain peace and stability in the Korean peninsula," said Jiang Yu, a spokeswoman for China's Foreign Ministry.

Ban's visit follows reports earlier this month that Pyongyang might be readying a test of a long-range missile that may be able to reach as far as the United States.

North Korea shocked the international community in 1998 when it fired a missile over Japan. A year later it imposed a moratorium on long-range missile testing.

The U.S. has called on North Korea to clarify its intentions and, with Japan, has said it may impose sanctions on Pyongyang if it goes ahead with the missile test.

But China, regarded as the country with the most influence over North Korea, has instead urged all sides not to take action that would disrupt peace in the region.

China is an ally of North Korea and provides around 70 percent of the impoverished state's energy needs.

Beijing has also hosted several rounds of six-party talks aimed at convincing North Korea to abandon its nuclear programs.

Those talks, which also include South Korea, Japan, Russia and the United States, have been stalled since November. North Korea has refused to return to the negotiating table until the United States lifts financial restrictions it imposed for alleged illicit financial dealings by the North.