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China Launches Effort to Solve N. Korean Nuclear Dispute - 2003-07-03

China says it is pressing hard to solve the dispute over North Korea's outlaw nuclear-weapons programs and is holding high-level talks with Seoul, Moscow and Washington.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said North Korea's efforts to build nuclear weapons will be high on the agenda Monday as China's president greets his South Korean counterpart in Beijing.

Mr. Kong said China's new President Hu Jintao and South Korea's new President Roh Moo-hyun will have an "in-depth exchange of views" on the North Korea nuclear issue.

He said those talks follow discussions this week between an important Chinese envoy and top U.S. officials in Washington. Similar meetings took place in Moscow between a top Chinese representative and Russia's foreign minister.

North Korea raised global concerns last October when it admitted it had a secret program to build nuclear weapons in violation of international agreements.

In April, China hosted talks between North Korea and the United States, but the talks ended without any reported progress.

North Korea complains it is threatened by the United States and wants strong security assurances. Washington says there is little point in making a deal directly with North Korea, since Pyongyang quickly violated the last agreement.

U.S. officials say North Korea's neighbors share an interest with the United States in the stability and security of North Asia. That is why Washington considers South Korea, China, and Japan important to any talks and agreements.

North Korea has repeatedly demanded direct, bilateral talks with the United States and Washington has consistently refused.

On Wednesday, China and Russia blocked a U.S. proposal to issue a U.N. Security Council statement denouncing North Korea's nuclear arms programs. It is the second time this year Beijing and Moscow have frustrated Washington's attempt to increase diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang to get rid of its nuclear weapons facilities in a verifiable way.