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China calls for calm to continue six-party talks
By Hu Xiao (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-08-19 00:45

China is calling for all six parties in the Korean Peninsular nuclear stand-off to stay calm, flexible and continue talks despite inevitable difficulties.

"We believe the parties have the willingness to continue to promote the procedure of peaceful talks," Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said.

Kong said it is unavoidable and also normal for differences to emerge in the course of talks.

He spoke amid flurries of diplomatic activity aiming to set up a working-level meeting before the fourth round -- its main session -- on the nuclear issue.

The six countries agreed at the end of third round six-party talks, held in Beijing in June, to have a fourth round before the end of September. They also agreed to hold a couple of working-level talks to lay the groundwork for the main session.

On Monday, the DPRK said it cannot attend the working-level talks under the current circumstances, and accused the US of continuing to pursue a "hostile" policy towards it.

"A nuclear freeze is possible and it can only lead to the nuclear programme being dismantled if the US starts dropping hostile acts against the DPRK," the Korean Central News Agency quoted the spokesman.

Later the same day, the US side dismissed the statement.

"We haven't heard anything from the North Koreans at this point that would change our assumption about holding those talks," State Department Press Relations Director Tom Casey said.

Fan Jishe, a senior researcher with Chinese Government think-tank the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said there is no need to be over concerned because the DPRK statement does not mean a change had been made to its basic stance -- that it would agree to a non-nuclear peninsula with a US security guarantee.

Fan said the nuclear standoff has a complicated historic background and troubles were likely to emerge because of a long-time lack of mutual trust between the DPRK and the United States. He said the root of the nuclear issue came from under the shadow of the Cold War in the Korean Peninsula.

The United States and DPRK have put forth specific plans to solve the issue and both clearly expressed their willingness to look at each proposal made at the third round of talks in June.

"It will be harder to solve if they (Washington and Pyongyang) do not take further steps," Fan said.

China, the mediator and host of the three rounds of talks so far, has set out the general goals, direction and method to peacefully solve the issue.

On Monday, Chinese vice foreign minister Shen Guofang met Li Gun, the DPRK's chief delegate to the working-level talks. Li also met Ning Fukui, Chinese ambassador in charge of the nuclear issue in the Korean Peninsula.

The standoff erupted in October 2002 when US officials said Pyongyang had admitted to pursuing a nuclear weapons programme, while Pyongyang accused Washington of labelling it as part of an "axis of evil" and listing DPRK as a target of the US' pre-emptive nuclear attacks.

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