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China, S. Korea Urge US to Increase Efforts to Resolve Korea Nuclear Crisis - 2003-09-01


South Korea is calling for diplomatic efforts to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis, as it downplays negative comments from Pyongyang. Also, China is urging the United States to do more to facilitate the next round of talks. A South Korean foreign policy advisor to President Roh Moo-hyun says harsh comments North Korea made about last week's talks were probably a "strategic move."

North Korean Foreign Ministry officials said on Saturday that further talks would be useless, and that Pyongyang had no choice but to increase what it calls its "nuclear deterrent."

The comments followed three days of talks in Beijing, involving China, Russia, Japan, the two Koreas, and the United States. The six countries were trying to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis.

The meeting ended with no concrete progress, other than an agreement to meet again at an unspecified place and date.

North Korea continued its sharp rhetoric on Monday. Its official news agency described as "balderdash" U.S. fears that Pyongyang might use nuclear weapons offensively or sell them to other parties.

Professor Kim Tae Woo, at South Korea's Institute of Defense Analyses, says harsh comments can serve two purposes for Pyongyang. He says on the one hand it may give the North more negotiating leverage for the next round of talks.

"But at the same time North Korea is now using the failure in the six-party talks as justification for tougher action, such as holding a nuclear test," he added.

United States officials say North Korean diplomats at last week's meeting warned they might test nuclear weapons. North Korea says it will not relinquish its weapons program until the United States provides formal security guarantees.

Washington demands that North Korea prove it has dismantled its nuclear capability before there is any talk of the United States doing anything in return.

The United States said last year that North Korea had admitted having a secret nuclear weapons program, in violation of several international accords.

On Monday, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the U.S. policy is the biggest obstacle to progress in the talks.

Professor Kim in South Korea says China's unofficial position is probably more favorable to the United States.

"If the nuclear situation becomes worse and worse, then China and Russia will become increasingly cooperative with the United States," he explained. "They all understand the eventual danger of North Korean nuclear bombs." South Korean officials say the weeks ahead should be filled with diplomatic activity to resolve differences between the six nations. South Korean Foreign Minister Yoon Young-kwan gets that process under way this week, with a visit to Washington for consultations with Secretary of State Colin Powell.