CHINESE OFFICIAL TO VISIT NORTH KOREA


2003.10.28
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The chairman of China's National People's Congress, Wu Bangguo, has arrived in North Korea as part of a Chinese bid to broker further multilateral talks on Pyongyang's nuclear program, RFA's Korean and Chinese services report.

On his arrival, Wu said China hoped to strengthen its traditional friendship with North Korea, and �enable both sides to make a contribution to peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula.� Official Chinese television showed Wu sitting at a table with Chinese and North Korean dignitaries.

Wu�s "official goodwill visit" to Pyongyang, from Oct. 29-31, is being received with the full red-carpet treatment by the isolated Stalinist regime, although ties have cooled in recent years between the two former Communist allies. It comes shortly after a significant concession by the United States on Pyongyang�s demands for a formal non-aggression pact in return for stopping its nuclear program.

Wu�s delegation includes the Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, who coordinated six-nation multilateral talks on the year-old nuclear standoff in Beijing in August. He is expected to carry a message from the U.S. President George W. Bush, who gave verbal assurances to Chinese President Hu Jintao in Bangkok last week that the U.S. would not invade North Korea.

Wu, currently ranked number two in the new generation of Chinese leaders, is the highest-ranking official to visit the since former President Jiang Zemin's visit in 2001. China Central Television (CCTV) quoted him as saying that the nuclear issue �should be peacefully resolved through dialogue.�

In South Korea, there are signs of increasing optimism over prospects for a new round of talks. Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun said Monday that North Korea was softening its stance on the nuclear issue, while South Korean Foreign Minister Yoon Young-kwan said he hoped that six-party talks would resume in mid-December.

North Korea wants a bilateral non-aggression pact with the United States before it abandons its nuclear arms program, while the United States wants North Korea to move quickly to scrap the nuclear program first.

Last week, Bush indicated for the first time that the United States might be prepared to offer informal security guarantees that the United States would not invade North Korea, in order to enable talks to continue. North Korea said it would consider Bush�s offer. However, Washington has ruled out signing a formal non-aggression treaty.

"Perhaps there are other ways we can look at to say exactly what I've said publicly on paper with our partners' consent," Bush said after talks with China's President Hu Jintao on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Bangkok.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a bilateral meeting with his Japanese counterpart, Junichiro Koizumi, that "there is a need to address North Korea's concerns for a guarantee of security in a proper form."

Diplomats from the United States, Japan, South Korea, Russia, China, and North Korea met in Beijing in August for talks on the crisis, which flared when Pyongyang admitted to continuing its nuclear program in October 2002.

The other parties to the talks are increasingly relying on Beijing's influence with its former ally, to bring North Korea back to the discussion table.#####

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