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China Calls For Calm Continuation of Six-Party Talks

China is calling on all six parties to the talks on the Korean Peninsula nuclear standoff to be calm and flexible and to continue the dialogue despite inevitable differences. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) announced on Monday that it cannot attend the working-level talks under the current circumstances.

"We believe the parties have the willingness to continue to promote the process of peaceful talks," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan amid flurries of diplomatic activities aiming to set up a working-level meeting before the fourth round of dialogue on the nuclear issue.

Kong also noted that it is unavoidable and normal for differences to emerge in the course of talks.

At the end of the third round of the six-party talks, held in Beijing in June, the six countries (China, the Republic of Korea, the DPRK, the US, Japan and Russia) agreed to hold a fourth round before the end of September. Working-level talks were planned to lay the groundwork for the main session.

On Monday, the DPRK announced that it cannot attend the working-level talks under the current circumstances, accusing the US of continuing to pursue a hostile policy against it.

The Korean Central News Agency quoted a government spokesman as saying that a nuclear freeze is possible but that it could only lead to the dismantling of the country's nuclear program if the US began to terminate its hostile acts against the DPRK.

Later that day, the US side dismissed the statement.

"We haven't heard anything from the North Koreans at this point that would change our assumption about holding those talks," State Department Press Relations Director Tom Casey said.

The issue erupted in October 2002 when US officials said Pyongyang had admitted to pursuing a nuclear weapons program, while Pyongyang accused Washington of labeling it as part of its "axis of evil" and listing the DPRK as a potential target of American preemptive nuclear strikes.

Fan Jishe, a senior researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that the DPRK's announcement did not indicate a change in its basic stance, which is that it would agree to a non-nuclear peninsula with a US security guarantee.

Fan said the nuclear standoff has a complicated historic background with its origins in the Korean conflict and the Cold War, and troubles are likely to emerge because of a longstanding lack of trust between the DPRK and the United States.

The two countries offered specific plans to resolve the issue during the third round of talks in June. Both expressed willingness to examine each other's proposals.

"It will be harder to resolve if (Washington and Pyongyang) do not take further steps," Fan said.

China, the mediator and host of the three rounds of talks held so far, has set out the general goals, direction and method to come to a peaceful resolution.

On Monday, China's Vice Foreign Minister Shen Guofang met Li Gun, the DPRK's chief delegate to the working-level talks. Li also met Ning Fukui, Chinese ambassador in charge of the nuclear issue in the Korean Peninsula.

(China Daily August 19, 2004)

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