Kim told China: No plans for second nuke test

Updated: 2006-10-24 16:48

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il told Chinese officials that Pyongyang is not planning a second atom bomb test but will only return to talks under conditions, China's foreign ministry said on Tuesday. [Full coverage on nuclear issue]

A spokesman also said that Kim, contrary to some reports, did not apologise for his nation's first ever nuclear weapons test October 9 in a meeting with a top-level Chinese delegation in Pyongyang last week.

A video grab shows China's State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan (3rd from front L), special envoy of Chinese President Hu Jintao, speaking with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il (3rd R) in Pyongyang, North Korea, October 19, 2006. [Reuters]

Tuesday's comments by foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao are the most specific account yet from Beijing of Kim's face-to-face meeting last Thursday with Chinese presidential envoy, Tang Jiaxuan.

"He expressed that North Korea does not have a plan for a second nuclear test," Liu told reporters.

"But if others put further pressure or unfair pressure (on the country), then North Korea may possibly take further measures."

Tang's meeting with Kim was held as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was on a regional tour of Japan, South Korea and China pushing for strict and effective enforcement of the UN sanctions.

It was the first encounter between the North Korean leader and any foreign official since the country stunned the world with its October 9 test.

Liu denied a South Korean report that Kim had expressed regret at the test. "I have not heard of Kim Jong-Il apologising," he said.

South Korean newspaper the Chosun Ilbo, quoting diplomatic sources, Friday reported that Kim had "conveyed his sorry feelings" for the blast.

Liu said Kim had also reiterated his stance that Pyonygang would not return to talks on its nuclear ambitions until the United States lifts key financial sanctions for alleged money-laundering and counterfeiting.

"They expressed to us their willingness to return to the six-party talks but there are certain conditions," spokesman Liu Jianchao said.

"They are willing to return, but these questions, including financial sanctions, need to be solved."

Returning to the talks is a key plank of the UN Security Council resolution imposed against North Korea for conducting its nuclear test.

The Chinese foreign ministry's account tallies with that given Monday by Japan's former vice foreign minister Ichiro Aisawa, who spoke to Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei.

Wu is China's head delegate and chair of the six-party talks that involve the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia, and was in Tang's delegation to Pyongyang.

"Vice Foreign Minister Wu said that at this moment, China is not optimistic about the resumption of the six-party talks or about North Korea abandoning nuclear" weapons, Aisawa told a news conference in Beijing.

Aisawa quoted Wu as saying North Korea "showed some flexibility" and that Beijing was checking to see if Washington would reciprocate.

According to Aisawa, Wu also said Kim had not apologised.

China has hosted several rounds of the talks on ending the North's nuclear programme in return for economic benefits and security guarantees.

Earlier Tuesday, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso rejected North Korea's demand that Washington lift the financial sanctions in return for returning to the talks.

"The US financial sanctions are a totally different thing from the six-party talks," Aso told reporters.

"The US sanctions are based on its domestic laws which have nothing to do with the six-way talks," Aso told reporters.