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New Round of Talks on N. Korea Should Be Held in December, says China's UN ambassador - 2003-10-10

China's U.N. ambassador said a fresh round of six-party talks on Korea should be held by December.

Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya said Friday the negotiations on the Korean nuclear issue are expected to resume late this year. He said, "We hope the talks by the six parties will continue, and will lead to good results of course."

Responding to a question as to whether December is being considered as the time frame, Mr. Wang said, "I think we agreed to have one round of discussions before the end of the year. So I think December is presumably a good time."

Mr. Wang's remarks appear to confirm reports that North Korea has dropped its earlier objections to continuing the talks.

A first round - involving the two Koreas, the United States, Russia, China, and Japan - was held in August. Afterwards, however, Pyongyang insisted that Japan be excluded from future negotiations.

That insistence appeared to be softening Friday when a state-run South Korean broadcaster reported that a North Korean U.N. envoy had agreed to continue the talks in December. But a person who answered the phone at Pyongyang's U.N. mission Friday afternoon said only "sometimes reports can be misleading" before hanging up.

Nevertheless, Beijing remains intent on pushing ahead with the talks, despite Pyongyang's hesitation.

Chinese Ambassador Wang said he understands the issues are difficult and complicated, but expressed hope that progress can be made. "I think we have had one round and each side has presented their positions, particularly North Korea and the United States, so this time I think each party knows what the other side wants. So I hope this time they could come up with responses to what the other side asks for to see whether we can have common ground," Mr. Wang said.

The dispute leading to the talks erupted last October when North Korea indicated it had a nuclear weapons program. The first round of talks in Beijing ended inconclusively.