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US, China Hold 'Good Talks' About N. Korea - 2003-01-16

A top U.S. envoy says resolving the nuclear standoff with Pyongyang will be a "slow process." Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly spoke the day after talks with North Korea's staunchest ally, China. Washington's top diplomat for Asia, James Kelly, says he had "very good" talks with Chinese officials, but gave few details. "We are not about minute solutions to very complicated problems, and so we're going to have to talk and work together and communicate with other people including North Korea, very, very clearly," he said.

Mr. Kelly is on his third trip to Beijing in just three months, and says he will be back. "We all agree on the end result, the Korean Peninsula needs to be free of nuclear weapons," he says. "That's something that China, the U.S.A., South Korea, Japan and Russia, really the whole international community, agree on. And it's going to be a slow process to make sure that we achieve this in the right way."

China is North Korea's ally and source of much of the impoverished nation's imports of food and fuel. Washington wants Beijing to push North Korea harder to stop its efforts to build nuclear weapons. China has recently offered to host talks between the United States and North Korea.

Mr. Kelly is part of a flurry of diplomatic activity aimed at resolving the nuclear standoff with North Korea. A high level delegation from Australia, one of the few Western nations with formal diplomatic relations with North Korea, is in Pyongyang, along with a special envoy from the United Nations. And Russia says it will dispatch its own envoy to Pyongyang and other key capitals.

The diplomats have a wide gap to bridge. On Wednesday, North Korea rebuffed U.S. offers to provide aid once concerns about its nuclear ambitions are cleared up.

The dispute erupted in October when Washington said North Korea broke international agreements with a secret program to build nuclear weapons. North Korea denies admitting it is building nuclear weapons.