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China Attempts to Restart Nuclear Crisis Talks with N. Korea - 2003-12-18

China has appointed a special envoy to push toward restarting negotiations on the North Korean nuclear crisis. The Chinese government appears to want to reinvigorate the drive to hold new talks, after efforts to bring North Korea and four other countries back to the negotiating table this month failed.

China has played a mediating role in the talks - transmitting proposals from the United States, Japan and South Korea on to its ally, North Korea. Chinese officials say there still remain wide differences. Russia also is part of the six-nation talks, which aim to end North Korea's efforts to build nuclear weapons.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao on Thursday said China has selected Ning Fukui, a career diplomat who took part in earlier negotiations on North Korea. Mr. Liu said Mr. Ning is working to coordinate the next round talks. "He is also contacting all relevant parties," he said. "We hope that with the efforts of all parties, the second round of talks can be held as soon as possible."

The crisis began last year when the United States said North Korea had admitted to having a secret nuclear weapons program in violation of international accords. The United States has since demanded that Pyongyang dismantle its nuclear program in a verifiable manner.

North Korea refuses, insisting the United States must first give a written security guarantee and provide aid. China, anxious to avert a possible conflict on its border, arranged an inconclusive set of talks in Beijing in August. By mid-November, it appeared that another meeting would take place this month, but in the past few days, officials in China, South Korea and the United States have said that will not happen.

On Thursday, North Korea fired off yet another round of rhetoric about the dispute. A government newspaper in Pyongyang said North Korea will never give up its nuclear program unless the United States first agrees to its demands for economic aid and a security guarantee.