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Greater Economic Cooperation Needed in Region, says South Korean President - 2003-07-08

South Korea's president is pushing for greater economic cooperation in northeast Asia, but said that can only happen if there is peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

The South Korean president said his meetings with Chinese leaders have been successful.

On the second day of his four-day visit, President Roh Moo-hyun said it is important for northeast Asia to build greater economic cooperation. Japan, China and South Korea are three of the world's biggest exporting nations.

But, he said, to build prosperity, there must be a peaceful end to the international dispute over North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

Mr. Roh received a warm greeting at the start of talks with the chairman of China's National People's Congress, Wu Bangguo, and other officials.

In an earlier meeting, China's president, Hu Jintao, promised to continue to use Beijing's influence with its ally, North Korea, to resolve the dispute.

North Korea raised global concern last October, when U.S. officials said Pyongyang acknowledged having a nuclear program in violation of several international agreements.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Kong Quan, said China and South Korea are working to solve the nuclear dispute. He said both want to ban nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula.

But Mr. Kong said any solution will have to take North Korea's "reasonable security concerns" into account.

North Korea said it is seeking nuclear weapons because it is threatened by the nuclear-armed United States.

North Korea said only a deal with the United States can solve its security problems, so it wants bilateral talks. Washington said North Korea quickly broke the last agreement with the United States. It wants multi-lateral talks, in hopes that a deal involving South Korea, Japan, China, and Russia would be harder for Pyongyang to break.

China and South Korea also talked about their blossoming economic relationship, which has seen trade expand eight-fold to $44 billion since 1992. South Korean President Roh called the economic progress "brilliant."

During his visit, South Korean car maker Hyundai announced it will build its joint venture in Beijing into its biggest overseas manufacturing base. Company officials say China is the world's fastest growing car market, and they hope the Beijing operation will produce and sell more than half a million cars annually by 2010.