China says it shares the United States' desire to secure peace on the Korean Peninsula, but stops short of saying it has reached an agreement with Washington on what demands to make of North Korea at talks next week.
Comments Tuesday from China's Foreign Ministry appear to contradict earlier remarks by a top U.S. arms control official. That could indicate the two nations are at odds over how to persuade North Korea to abandon its efforts to build nuclear weapons.
U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton said on Monday while visiting China that United States wants the "complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement" of North Korea's nuclear programs.
Mr. Bolton told reporters that China is using the same language, prompting analysts to speculate that new common ground had been broken between Beijing and Washington.
On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said only that the two nations are embarking on a common effort to resolve the dispute. She stopped short of saying any other consensus had been reached.
Ms. Zhang says all of these efforts are made toward keeping peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.
China and the United States will join officials of Japan, North Korea, South Korea, and Russia on February 25 for a second round of talks on Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.
The United States and North Korea's neighbors want Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear programs, including a secret uranium project Washington says North Korea admitted having in violation of international accords. Pyongyang has signed several agreements to remain nuclear free, but says it needs the weapons to deter what it considers a hostile United States.
In the past, Beijing has signaled it does not fully agree with Washington's demand that Pyongyang first verifiably dismantle its weapons programs before it can receive benefits such as aid and security guarantees.
The dispute has dragged on since October 2002. The first round of six-nation talks last August ended with no progress, and it has taken months of diplomatic effort to bring Pyongyang back to the table.
Mr. Bolton's two-day talks with Foreign Ministry officials in Beijing focused on issues of nuclear proliferation. The United States wants China to participate in its Proliferation Security Initiative, a plan proposed by President Bush to stop the global spread of nuclear weapons.
The Foreign Ministry spokeswoman says China has yet to give its support to the program.
China's record of exporting weapons technology has come under new scrutiny following a report in the Washington Post newspaper last week. The newspaper said nuclear weapons designs found in Libya had come from China via Pakistan.
Ms. Zhang did not confirm or deny the report, but said China was trying to gather more information on it.