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China Asks for Flexibility in Talks on N. Korean Nuclear Program


China says progress can be made at next week's six-party North Korean nuclear disarmament talks if the participants adopt a flexible and pragmatic attitude. Roger Wilkison reports from Beijing, where the talks will resume after a 13-month boycott by North Korea.

China will have a lot at stake when the talks resume on Monday. It has hosted the discussions for more than three years and is eager to show that it can be a trusted broker in international crises.

That is why Beijing appealed Tuesday for all six parties - the United States, North and South Korea, Japan, Russia and China itself - to be creative and flexible in working toward the goal of a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang says negotiators should keep in mind what their ultimate objective is.

"We should look at whether or not the results of the talks are beneficial toward the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and moving forward," he said. "Are they moving toward the benefit of the stability and peace of Northeast Asia?"

Qin says the talks will focus on how to implement a joint statement signed by all sides in September 2005 whereby North Korea agrees to abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs in exchange for security guarantees and aid from the United States and other countries.

"We should spur all sides to comprehensively, and in a balanced and practicable way, implement the September joint statement," he said.

Qin says there will be bilateral and multilateral meetings among the envoys and that there is no deadline for an agreement. But, he was asked, what are China's expectations for progress?

"In fact, I am not a fortune-teller. I cannot predict the progress of the talks," he responded.

The diplomatic push to renew the talks has been given new urgency by North Korea's test of a nuclear device in October.