- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 19, 2009

BEIJING (AP) - Chinese President Hu Jintao urged North Korea’s visiting premier Thursday to cooperate with efforts to resume stalled international talks on dismantling the North’s nuclear programs, state media said.

Hu told Kim Yong Il that China is willing to work with other parties to restart the six-nation talks and overcome difficulties, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

“We hope that relevant parties can consider the whole situation, appropriately resolve their differences and promote the progress of the six-party talks,” Xinhua quoted Hu as saying.

Regional powers are looking to China, host of the talks and North Korea’s biggest benefactor and longtime communist ally, to help calm tensions in the region and convince the North to return to the negotiating table.

North Korea abruptly stopped disabling its nuclear program last August amid a disagreement with Washington over how to verify its past nuclear activities. Six-party talks in December failed to resolve the verification dispute.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told Kim a day earlier that China wants to “actively push forward” the deadlocked negotiations involving the two Koreas, China, the U.S., Russia and Japan, state media said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang would not elaborate on what steps China was planning to take, but said Thursday that Beijing “sincerely hopes” the next round of talks can be held as soon as possible.

The timing would depend on whether the delegations can agree on when to meet and “whether the conditions are right,” Qin said.

China’s chief delegate to the nuclear talks, Wu Dawei, quietly made a trip to North Korea in February seeking a breakthrough, South Korean and Japanese media reported at the time. Beijing has not confirmed the trip.

North Korea has sent jitters through the international community by announcing plans to launch a communications satellite in early April, an event that many believe will be a cover for a long-range missile test.

On Wednesday, North Korea reasserted its right to launch a satellite into space, saying Russia, Iran, India and many other countries have been pursuing peaceful space programs, according to the country’s official Korean Central News Agency.

The meeting with Hu was likely to include discussion of a possible summit between Hu and Korean leader Kim Jong Il, the South Korean news agency Yonhap reported ahead of the meeting, citing unnamed sources in Beijing. Xinhua did not mention a summit.

Chinese leaders have asked Kim Jong Il to visit after his nation’s newly elected parliament holds its first session, Yonhap said. No date has been announced publicly, but the session is expected to take place in early April.

Kim, 67, reportedly suffered a stroke in August, around the time the elections were due to be held. North Korea denies he was ill and did not provide a reason for delaying the balloting until March.

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