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China urges 'push for progress' to resume N. Korea nuclear talks

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

BEIJING, Nov. 5 (Yonhap) -- China on Tuesday called on nations involved in the long-stalled nuclear talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear weapons ambitions to jointly make a "push for progress" to reopen the talks, and confirmed that its chief nuclear envoy is now on a visit to Pyongyang.

China's foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei made the remarks a day after North Korea announced that the Chinese envoy, Wu Dawei, arrived in Pyongyang amid a recent flurry of diplomacy to narrow differences over the conditions for the resumption of the talks.

With Wu, who met with his U.S. counterparts in Washington last week, in Pyongyang, Hong also repeated China's long-standing stance that nations should be committed to implementing a denuclearization-for-aid agreement reached in 2005 at the six-party talks.

"We should press ahead with the implementation of the Sept. 19th Joint Statement, accommodate each other's concerns and push for progress in a step-by-step manner," Hong replied when asked about whether there are any signs of progress in recent diplomatic efforts to resume the six-nation talks.

"With regard to the preconditions of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, all parties should come back to the principle of the Sept. 19th Joint Statement, set a reasonable threshold for the dialogue and resume the six-party talks at an early date so as to resolve the Korean nuclear issue in a sustainable and irreversible way," Hong said.

Hong, however, indicated that China is somewhat supportive of North Korea.

"At the same time, we also believe that concerns of all relevant parties should be addressed in a balanced way," Hong said.

The six-party talks, involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan, have been suspended since late 2008.

Since conducting its third nuclear test in February, North Korea has repeatedly expressed its willingness to reopen the six-party process "without preconditions."

South Korea and the U.S. have been demanding North Korea show its sincerity first by taking steps to denuclearize itself before the six-party talks are resumed. China has been more accommodating toward North Korea, urging South Korea and the U.S. to lower the bar for Pyongyang to sit down at the negotiating table.

Hong said Wu visited North Korea to "exchange views on ways to resume the six-party talks and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."

In Washington, South Korea's chief nuclear envoy Cho Tae-yong held talks on Monday with Davies. Cho and Davies will also hold a three-way meeting on Wednesday with their Japanese counterpart, Junichi Ihara, amid a marked push by China to breathe new life into the six-party talks.

After holding talks with Davies, Cho told reporters the talks were "very productive and useful."

Cho is scheduled to visit China mid-month for talks with Wu, a diplomatic source in Beijing said earlier, while Davies is also expected to visit China later this month.

Meanwhile, North Korea appears to be ready to test-launch an inter-continental ballistic missile, said a U.S.-based institute monitoring the North's missile and nuclear activities Monday.

The website 38 North of the Johns Hopkins University's U.S.-Korea Institute cited its analysis of photos of missile shown during the North's military parades, and said Pyongyang's first flight test of the KN-08 purported ICBM "could occur at any time."

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