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China's Top Diplomat Meets N. Korean Leader Amid Tensions

In this photo released by Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service in Tokyo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, center right, and Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo, center left, walk together in Pyongyang, 9 Dec. 2010

The official Xinhua news agency said Thursday that China and its ally North Korea have reached a consensus on the Korean peninsula crisis after Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

North Korea's official news agency said the talks in Pyongyang were held in a warm and friendly atmosphere. Foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu had no details about the meeting.

But she repeated China's call for dialogue to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula. A further deterioration of the situation is not in any party's interest, said Jiang. Beijing, she added, urges both North and South Korea to keep calm and exercise restraint.

Tensions have risen in Northeast Asia since late last month when North Korea fired artillery on a South Korean island and Seoul's forces returned fire. Four South Koreans died.

Bill Richardson, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is going to North Korea next week at Pyongyang's invitation. The State Department says his visit will be private and that he will not carry any message from the U.S. government.

The Foreign ministry's Jiang had a sharp reaction to comments made by Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. On Thursday, he repeated Washington's accusation that Beijing is enabling Pyongyang's aggressive behavior and not doing enough to rein-in its ally.

Before a person makes such accusations, said Jiang, he should look at what efforts he has have made to bring about peace and regional stability. She said military threats cannot solve problems and will only cause tensions.

China has been critical of U.S. military exercises in the Yellow Sea, conducted after the artillery attack. Mullen defended the exercises as "transparent," and said they were planned before tensions rose.

However, in a sign that U.S.-Chinese military ties may be improving, a high-level Chinese military delegation is on its way to the United States for consultations. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is scheduled to visit China in January.