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China Has Powerful Means to Influence North Korea, says US Official - 2003-07-28

The top U.S. diplomat for arms control is urging both China and the United Nations to do more to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis.

U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton said Washington appreciates China's current diplomatic push to get North Korea back to the negotiating table. John Bolton spoke Monday after meetings with top Chinese officials.

China hosted three-way talks with the United States and North Korea last April, but there was no visible progress. Since then Beijing has sent a series of high-level envoys to Pyongyang, Washington and Moscow in the hope of restarting the talks.

Mr. Bolton said China has powerful means to increase the pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program. "I don't think there is any question that China's influence … is substantial, given that it supplies between 70 and 90 percent of North Korea's fuel needs and provides substantial additional humanitarian assistance as well. That's a point we've made in our discussions with China many times," Mr. Bolton said.

Mr. Bolton implied that threats to cut off supplies to impoverished North Korea would force Pyongyang comply with signed international agreement for it to be nuclear free.

At the same time, Mr. Bolton continued the U.S. push to have the U.N. Security Council address North Korea's nuclear violations.

Among the violations, North Korea late last year expelled U.N. nuclear inspectors monitoring Pyongyang's compliance with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Mr. Bolton said the United Nations has not taken effective follow-up action. "The council's ability, willingness to address this question at an appropriate time, is an important test for the Security Council," he said.

China, which is a permanent member of the Security Council, has said there are several diplomatic steps to explore before pressing the United Nations to step further into the dispute.

China says Washington and Pyongyang could unravel the current standoff if both sides were "flexible and sincere."

North Korea demands security guarantees and direct talks with only the United States to resolve the 10-month old dispute. Washington says North Korea's nuclear programs are a threat to every nation in the region, so South Korea, Japan, China and Russia should be involved in future discussions.

Mr. Bolton arrived in Beijing Sunday on a three-nation tour that also takes him to South Korea and Japan.