- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 30, 2003

BEIJING — China and North Korea agreed “in principle” yesterday to convene a second round of six-nation talks on Pyongyang’s nuclear program, further evidence of an increased diplomatic role for Beijing in the yearlong dispute.

The reports were welcomed by the United States, which said the “multiparty process” offers the best hope of getting North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

While couched in tentative language, the North’s latest statement could be more binding because it was made publicly alongside China, its last major ally and one it would be reluctant to alienate.

No time frame was given for talks, and it was not immediately clear what the next step would be. The United States wants North Korea to stop its nuclear program immediately.

Word of the accord came after a meeting between Kim Jong-il, the North’s reclusive leader, and Wu Bangguo, the most senior Chinese official to visit North Korea since 2001.

In its national evening newscast, China Central Television showed Mr. Wu, head of China’s legislature and its No. 2 communist, shaking hands with a smiling Mr. Kim. Mr. Wu is on a three-day “goodwill” visit as China tries to ensure another round of the six-nation summit held in Beijing in August.

“Both sides agreed in principle that the six-way talks should continue,” CCTV’s anchorwoman said. “China and North Korea support the idea of a peaceful resolution to the North Korean issue through dialogue.”

The official news agencies of North Korea and China confirmed the report. Pyongyang’s Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) used slightly more tentative language, however, saying the sides “agreed in principle to pursue the course of the six-way talks.”

KCNA said the North “expressed its willingness to take part in the future talks if they provide a process of putting into practice the proposal for a package solution based on the principle of simultaneous actions.”

North Korea has previously said that “simultaneous actions” include economic and humanitarian aid from the United States, the opening of diplomatic ties and the building of a nuclear power plant. It also demands a signed nonaggression treaty — something the Bush administration has thus far refused.

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said the United States is “encouraged” by the reports that North Korea had agreed in principle to six-nation talks.

“The president has made it very clear that the multiparty process provides the best hope for achieving our shared objective of getting North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions and end its nuclear-weapons building,” he said.

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