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UN chief backs direct US-DPRK nuclear talks
(China Daily)
Updated: 2009-07-31 08:09

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Wednesday he supports the DPRK's willingness to engage in one-on-one talks with the United States to resolve the dispute over eliminating its nuclear weapons program.

The United States has said it is willing to hold direct talks with Pyongyang - but only on the sidelines of six-party nuclear disarmament talks that include the US, the DPRK, the ROK, China, Japan and Russia. The DPRK has said it won't return to the stalled six-nation talks and suggested a new dialogue with President Barack Obama's administration.

Ban, a former ROK foreign minister, said he believes that Six-Party Talks are "a good way" to address the nuclear standoff with the DPRK.

But he said "if necessary, there should be some other forms of dialogue, and I'm encouraged by the willingness of DPRK authorities to engage in direct dialogue with the United States. That I would like to support and welcome," Ban told reporters.

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The secretary-general was asked whether he was willing to go to Pyongyang to pave the way for US-DPRK talks and didn't rule it out.

"This situation on the Korean Peninsula is very serious, and whatever I can do as the secretary-general I am willing to do, including my own visit to Pyongyang," Ban replied. "At this time, however, I need to find out when would be an appropriate timing for me to visit. I'm not able to give you any answer at this time."

Pyongyang made the surprise suggestion of a new dialogue to resolve tensions over its atomic weapons programs on Monday - an apparent invitation to the US to engage in one-on-one talks. Hours earlier, however, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told Pyongyang to stick to six-nation talks, saying the multilateral framework is "the appropriate way to engage with North Korea (DPRK)".

The US believes that negotiating directly with the DPRK outside the six-party framework would marginalize its two closest Asian allies, Japan and the ROK, and reward the DPRK for belligerent behavior.

China stops smuggling

The DPRK has ratcheted up tensions at a rapid pace in recent months. It conducted a long-range rocket launch in April, quit the six-nation nuclear talks, restarted its nuclear facilities, conducted its second-ever nuclear test, and test-launched a barrage of banned ballistic missiles.

The UN Security Council has tightened restrictions on the DPRK in response to its May 25 nuclear test. The sanctions are meant to cut off the DPRK's arms trade.

Chinese border police have seized 70 kg of the strategic metal vanadium bound for the DPRK, foiling an attempt to smuggle a material used to make missile parts and high speed tools, local media reported on Tuesday.

Altogether 68 bottles totaling 70 kg of vanadium worth 200,000 yuan ($29,280) were seized at the Dandong border with the DPRK, the Dandong News said. Vanadium is a metal that strengthens steel and protects against rust.

AP - Reuters