- The Washington Times - Monday, July 7, 2003

BEIJING (AP) — The leaders of China and South Korea pledged new efforts yesterday to resolve the standoff over North Korea’s nuclear weapons ambitions, but Beijing also said Pyongyang needs reassurances that it won’t come under attack.

Chinese President Hu Jintao and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun spoke to reporters after closed-door talks in Beijing, which is North Korea’s only major ally.

“We must open up channels between all concerned parties as soon as possible,” Mr. Roh said. “And in order to reach a consensus, all sides need to make relentless efforts.”

Mr. Hu said both countries agreed on the importance of maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

“We want to avoid the situation getting out of hand, so we need to deepen our efforts to make a breakthrough,” Mr. Hu said.

China has said it is in favor of keeping nuclear weapons off the Korean Peninsula, a stand Mr. Hu reaffirmed yesterday. In April, Beijing hosted the first formal talks between Washington and Pyongyang since the nuclear dispute started in October.

Mr. Roh, making his first visit to China since taking office in February, has called for Beijing to play a “constructive role” in resolving the dispute. China recently offered to host more talks.

The standoff flared in October when U.S. officials said Pyongyang had admitted it had a secret nuclear weapons program in violation of a 1994 deal with Washington.

U.S. officials said a North Korean envoy had contended during the April meeting in Beijing that Pyongyang had nuclear bombs and planned to build more, but that it was willing to give them up if it received security guarantees and economic aid.

The United States says any talks with North Korea also should involve South Korea, Japan and Russia, in addition to China. North Korea insists on holding direct talks with the United States before multilateral talks.

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