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Wu continues Korean visit, eyes on nuclear progress
( 2003-10-30 06:18) (chinadaily.com.cn)

A senior Chinese official visiting North Korea said yesterday that the nuclear standoff between Washington and Pyongyang must be solved through talks, whatever "the trouble or turbulence" lies ahead.

China's No. 2 leader Wu Bangguo, left, talks with Kim Yong Nam, head of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, in Pyongyang on Wednesday October 29, 2003. Earlier Wu flew into the North Korean capital on a 'goodwill visit' to North Korea as efforts mount to convene a second round of six-nation talks on the nation's nuclear program. [AP]

China's second-ranking official, National People's Congress Chairman Wu Bangguo, continued Thursday a high-profile mission to North Korea as signs grow that the country could agree to a new round of six-nation negotiations to be held in Beijing before year end.

The three-way talks, including N. Korea, the United States and host China in April, and the six-party talks in August in Beijing, with Russia, South Korea and Japan joining them, have played an important role in preventing deterioration of the nuclear standoff in Korean Peninsular, Wu told Kim Yong-nam, president of North Korea's Supreme People's Assembly.

China would like together with the DPRK to make unremitted efforts for the peaceful solution to Korean nuclear issue, said the Chinese top legislator. Wu is China's highest-level official to pay an official goodwill visit to Pyongyang in more than two years. Former President Jiang Zemin visited Pyongyang in September 2001.

In an indication of the importance it assigned to the event, N. Korea rolled out the red carpet, and Kim Yong-nam, Pyongyang's No 2 official, went to Pyongyang International Airport to greet Wu as he arrived Wednesday.

*** US Hostile Policy Criticized

Kim criticized what he called the United States' "invariable hostile policy" toward North Korea, Pyongyang's media reported.

"The situation in Northeast Asia centering around the Korean peninsula is reaching an unpredictably difficult phase due to the US invariable hostile policy towards the DPRK," Kim was quoted as saying by the KCNA news agency during a speech late Wednesday at the banquet for the Chinese delegation.

Wu said he hoped the visit could "make contributions to the maintenance of peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and in the region as well." 
The three-day trip, the highest-level Chinese mission to the country for two years, coincided with continued efforts in Washington and Beijing to persuade North Korea to return to the negotiating table.

*** Talk Progress in Sight

An aide to South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun said there were signs progress could be made in finding a resolution to the nuclear stand-off. "We can cautiously say that we are at the stage of finding a clue (to ending the crisis)," said Ra Jong-yil, Roh's national security advisor.

A first round of talks in Beijing in August brought together the United States, China, Japan, Russia and the two Koreas but ended without agreement.

Optimism has grown in recent days that a new round of six-country talks could take place in the Chinese capital before the end of the year. This has been fueled mainly by a statement by North Korea Saturday saying it was ready to consider an offer by US President George W. Bush to provide a written security guarantee in return for an end to its nuclear weapons program.

Following an hour summit talk between Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao last week in Bangkok on the sidelines of the annual APEC leaders meeting, Bush told reporters that Washington agrees to a written security guarantee, which is to be signed by the six participating countries.

Bush administration refuses to sign a bilateral non-aggression treaty with Pyongyang, which will have to be sanctioned by the Senate.

*** Washington Hawks Wane

According to observers, North Korea's latest softening of policies is a tactical change to take advantage of the power shifts within the Bush administration.

The hawks of the administration are seriously weakened by the rising problems in Iraq, making it a hard-won opportunity for Pyongyang to come across as moderating its policies, they said. South Korea officials have recently urged North Korea leadership to grasp the good chance, and do not let it slip away.

Wu arrived with a large entourage including Vice-Premier Zeng Peiyan, Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi, a veteran North Korea hand, and Ge Zhenfeng, deputy chief of the general staff in the Chinese army.

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