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China�host of six-party talks in August on the crisis over North Korea�s nuclear weapons program�has appointed a special ambassador to handle the crisis, though a second round of talks on the issue now looks unlikely before January 2004, RFA reports.

Ambassador Ning Fukui is a long-serving Foreign Ministry official who most recently served as ambassador to Cambodia, and who has also previously worked on East Asian affairs, China�s Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said.

�He will broadly have contact and consult with all the parties concerned in nuclear issues on the Korean Peninsula and at the same time help with coordination,� Liu told a regular news briefing in Beijing.

Meanwhile, an official North Korean newspaper repeated previous demands for economic aid and security assurances for Washington before Pyongyang would stop building nuclear weapons.

Pyongyang�s official newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun , called on Washington to agree to a �simultaneous package solution� to the nuclear dispute.

�[North Korea]�s stand to beef up its nuclear deterrent force will remain unchanged no matter what others may say, as long as the United States keeps pursuing a policy to threaten and stifle [North Korea]... while turning down its proposal for simultaneous package solution to the nuclear issue,� Rodong Sinmun said in a commentary.

Diplomats from the United States, North and South Korea, Japan, China, and Russia met in Beijing for China-brokered talks in late August. The discussions ended with no firm dates for a second round of meetings.

The crisis began in October last year when Pyongyang admitted to running a secret uranium-enrichment program in violation of a 1994 accord with the United States.

North Korea now says it 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.

However, U.S. President George W. Bush indicated last month that the United States might be prepared to offer informal security guarantees that it would not invade North Korea. North Korea said it would consider Bush�s offer.

Washington has ruled out signing a formal non-aggression treaty.#####


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