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US asks China to push for N. Korea talks
Updated: 2005-02-10 09:06

US President Bush sent an envoy to China last week to urge a renewed push to get North Korea back to stalled negotiations over its nuclear weapons program, U.S. officials said on Wednesday.

The envoy, Michael Green, an Asian expert on the National Security Council, carried with him a letter for Chinese President Hu Jintao, the officials said.

Similar letters were given to South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

"We feel and believe that the Chinese government does understand the threat a nuclear-armed Korean Peninsula represents and thus understands the need for North Korea to return to the six-party talks," said a senior administration official.

Another official said Green had delivered a message to the Chinese about information suggesting that Libya had obtained uranium hexafluoride from North Korea and made the case that this underscored the need to restart six-party talks.

"My understanding of it was that it (the Libyan information) as yet another sign of the danger that North Korea poses and a reminder of the importance of moving the six-party talks forward," said the American official.

Other officials said last week that scientific tests on the nuclear material surrendered by Libya have led U.S. intelligence agencies and scientists to conclude that North Korea sold processed uranium to Tripoli.

The United States, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia have held three rounds of talks with North Korea since August 2003 and have been trying to coax North Korea back to negotiations. Pyongyang has offering varying explanations for refusing.

At the last session in June, the United States proposed gradual economic aid and investment for North Korea in exchange for a complete dismantlement of its nuclear facilities and inspections.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the proposal remained on the table. "I think all parties are urging North Korea to come back to the talks so that we can move forward on the proposal that we outlined at that last round of talks," he said.

A Russian news agency quoted a North Korean diplomat as saying on Monday that Pyongyang had not decided if it will resume talks because U.S. policy toward it remained unclear and that Bush "did not clearly specify Washington's position" in his Feb. 2 State of the Union speech.

In his only direct reference to North Korea in that speech, Bush said: "We are working with governments in Asia to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions." He has emphasized the need for a diplomatic solution.

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