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China Takes Diplomatic Lead in Helping Resolve N. Korea Crisis


China is sending its foreign minister to Japan and South Korea next week to work out details for multi-party talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program. North Korea finally agreed to the proposal last week, but no date has been set. Chinese leaders have taken the diplomatic lead in resolving the 10-month nuclear crisis.

Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing heads for Japan Sunday and South Korea next week to consult on finalizing talks on North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

All sides agreed to hold six-nation talks last week - most likely in Beijing - but the date and agenda have yet to be worked out.

China's government said a new round of talks is aimed at finding a peaceful resolution to the dispute over North Korea's efforts to build nuclear weapons.

In a statement read on China's state television, the Foreign Ministry said China has been doing intense diplomatic work to get North Korea to join the United States, China, South Korea, Japan, and Russia in a new round of talks.

The breakthrough came last week, when North Korea backed down on its demand for one-on-one talks with the United States, which Pyongyang said is a major threat to its security.

Washington had insisted Asian countries take part in negotiations on the grounds North Korean nuclear weapons are a global threat and in need of an international solution.

China has been playing an intermediary role since the dispute erupted last October. Beijing hosted talks with the United States and North Korea in April - but they ended without progress.

In Beijing, strategic studies expert Xue Mouhong said the proposed new talks are a good start to a difficult process. "I think the talk is not very easy it will be a long process…. I think North Korea is a very hard negotiator and North Korea wishes the U.S. to guarantee her security first," Mr. Xue said.

China, South Korea, Japan and Russia agree with the United States that North Korea must stop its nuclear weapons program - which violates several international agreements.

And all nations agree on using diplomacy to achieve nuclear free Korean Peninsula. But only the United States said it will consider other options if talks fail to make progress.

One major stumbling block is North Korea's insistence on a formal non-aggression pact with Washington before discussing its nuclear programs.

The United States has rejected that, but said it is willing to offer other security guarantees.