- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 10, 2004

SEOUL — North Korea said yesterday that it has received support from China for its proposal to freeze its nuclear weapons programs in return for free oil and other economic concessions from the United States.China signaled its support at a meeting in Beijing between North Korea’s vice foreign minister, Kim Kye Gwan, and top Chinese officials including Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing.The Chinese side “recognized the rationality” of Pyongyang’s proposal to help end the nuclear dispute, a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman told KCNA.The United States, North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan and Russia are scheduled to begin talks on Feb. 25 over U.S. demands that North Korea dismantle its nuclear weapons programs in a “complete, irreversible and verifiable manner.”North Korea has proposed to freeze all its nuclear activities as a first step to resolving the nuclear dispute if the United States provides free oil shipments, lifts economic sanctions and removes the communist country from its list of countries that sponsor terrorism.The Bush administration insists that North Korea begin dismantling — not just feezing — its nuclear programs before it makes any concessions.China cautioned against expecting a swift resolution of the standoff, saying all sides should have “realistic” expectations about the upcoming talks.”The question is a very complicated one … and we have different views about the issue,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said yesterday. She added that the sides “should not expect to solve the issue within one or two rounds of talks.”Earlier yesterday, North Korea denied receiving nuclear weapons technology from Pakistan, and accused the United States of spreading false rumors.”This is nothing but a mean and groundless propaganda,” a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman told KCNA.Meanwhile, Radio Free Asia reported yesterday that a man who leaked documents from a North Korean prison camp detailing chemical weapons and gas experiments on political prisoners — including women and children — has been arrested by Chinese authorities after escaping across the border with his family, “We have pleaded with the American authorities, but we have been disappointed,” said South Korean human rights activist Kim Sang-hun, who is conducting an international campaign to pressure Chinese authorities to free the North Korean man and his family.”These people will be dragged to North Korea, [where] they will face death. This person will be executed, or punished,” Mr. Kim said.A State Department spokesman in Washington declined to comment, saying U.S. officials here were not aware of the arrest.Mr. Kim did not name the man nor did he give details of the family, all of whom were arrested in China recently.

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