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China says hopes 6-party talks can start by mid-February

China says hopes 6-party talks can start by mid-February

China hopes international talks on stopping North Korea's nuclear weapons program can resume before the Lunar New Year holiday in mid-February, a senior Chinese official said Thursday.
Chinese State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan made the comments in a meeting with visiting South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-soon, Xinhua News Agency said.
The talks, which include the United States, China, the two Koreas, Japan and Russia, were last held in December but there was no breakthrough.
Hopes have risen that the next session could see real progress as North Korea showed signs of willingness to implement a 2005 deal _ which calls for North Korea to trade away its nuclear program for security guarantees and aid _ after the United States offered the communist state unspecified concessions during bilateral talks in Berlin last week.
Top nuclear envoys from North Korea, the United States and Japan have also been through Beijing in the past week, and Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said Thursday that all six parties had made preliminary suggestions for the talks.
"We think all these are of positive meaning and lay a foundation for an early resumption of the six-party talks," Jiang told a regular news conference.
The Lunar New Year, China's biggest holiday, begins Feb. 18.
North Korea conducted its first-ever nuclear test in October, adding urgency to the six-nation talks that have been held since 2003 without making any concrete progress on disarming the communist nation.
Before Song arrived in Beijing, he discussed North Korea's nuclear program with his U.S. and Japanese counterparts by phone, Seoul's Foreign Ministry said.
Song and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pledged in their 10-minute conversation Wednesday night to work closely together to decide how to implement the 2005 accord, the ministry said.
Song also had a 30-minute conversation with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso on the same topic on Thursday, the ministry said.
Previously, Pyongyang said it would not discuss nuclear disarmament unless the United States first lifted financial restrictions imposed for the North's alleged counterfeiting and money laundering.
Separate talks between the U.S. and North Korea on the financial sanctions were also expected to resume soon, but no date or location had been fixed and Jiang said she had no news on whether they would be held in Beijing.
Japan has repeatedly raised the issue of its citizens abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s at the talks, but on Thursday South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun told reporters in Seoul the topic should not become a diversion.
Hours later, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shot back that the abduction issue must "absolutely" be resolved in tandem with the nuclear dispute.


Updated : 2021-05-16 14:40 GMT+08:00