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UN Chief Praises China's Role in Reducing Korea Tension

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (L) shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, June 19, 2013.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has praised China's "constructive" role in reducing tensions between North and South Korea.

Mr. Ban made his comments to China's state television in Beijing on Wednesday after meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

"I really appreciate the constructive role China has been playing in reducing tension on the Korean peninsula and facilitating dialogue between the two parts of Korea. It is important that first of all, tension be reduced so that both parties of Korea can engage in dialogue."

North Korean and Chinese officials on Wednesday held high-level talks in Beijing, in an apparent attempt to repair ties that were strained following Beijing's tougher-than-usual response to Pyongyang's latest nuclear test.

A spokesperson for China's foreign ministry offered little details on what she called the "strategic dialogue" between Chinese vice foreign minister Zhang Yesui and his North Korean counterpart, Kim Kye-gwan.

Kim is North Korea's top nuclear negotiator, and represented Pyongyang at the six-party talks on the North's nuclear weapons program. China has repeatedly urged the North to return to the talks, which it abandoned in 2009.

China, which is North Korea's only major ally, has grown impatient with Pyongyang. After its nuclear test in February, it supported expanded U.N. sanctions against the North and cracked down on North Korean banks as part of the measures.

President Barack Obama earlier this week praised Beijing for getting tougher on Pyongyang. He told U.S. media that China is "taking more seriously the problem of constant provocations" from the North.

In his comments Wednesday, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said it is important that the Chinese government continue in a "constructive role" so that peace and stability can be maintained on the Korean peninsula.

Mr. Ban, who arrived in Beijing on Tuesday, is due to meet with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday.