China vows to bring North Korea back into nuclear talks

SOUTH Korea and the United States are hoping that China can bring its unruly ally North Korea back into stalled talks on dismantling its nuclear weapons programmes, South Korea’s foreign minister said yesterday.

Ban Ki-moon made the comments as the Chinese foreign minister, Li Zhaoxing, assured Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, that Beijing would push Pyongyang to end its boycott of six-party talks on the crisis as soon as possible.

North Korea declared for the first time last week that it possessed nuclear weapons, adding that it was pulling out of the multilateral talks in the face of what it called US hostility.

The move was a major challenge to South Korea, the US, and China, which has played a lead role over several years in efforts to disarm its isolated Stalinist neighbour.

"South Korea and the United States exchanged the view that China should strengthen the effort to convince the North, and we are continuing diplomatic efforts in that direction," Mr Ban said.

Mr Ban, who is visiting Washington, is due to meet Ms Rice, the US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley today.

China is believed to be upset with Pyongyang, but has pledged to continue its crucial role in mediating in the crisis.

"China will stay in touch with all relevant parties and will strive to make the situation develop in a positive direction so that the talks could be resumed as soon as possible," Mr Li was quoted as saying to Ms Rice by telephone.

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