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Seoul's top nuclear negotiator heads to China over N.K. nuke

All Headlines 13:20 February 23, 2010

By Byun Duk-kun

SEOUL, Feb. 23 (Yonhap) -- Wi Sung-lac, South Korea's top negotiator to six-nation talks on ending North Korea's nuclear program, left for China on Tuesday for talks with Chinese officials on ways to bring Pyongyang back to the negotiations.

Wi's trip to Beijing follows a visit there by North Korea's chief nuclear negotiator, Kim Kye-gwan, earlier this month for talks with Wu Dawei, China's former chief negotiator in the nuclear negotiations who retired earlier in the year as a vice foreign minister.

The Chinese diplomat was named the special representative on Korean Peninsula affairs on Feb. 10, but it was not clear whether the 57-year-old will continue to serve as China's top negotiator in the nuclear talks also attended by the United States, Japan and Russia.

"We plan to check current conditions, especially our efforts to resume the six-party talks and this will include talks on the recent North Korea-China meeting between Wu and Kim Kye-gwan," Wi told reporters of his scheduled meeting with the Chinese official.

The South Korean is the first nuclear negotiator of countries involved in the six-party talks to visit China since North Korea's Kim wrapped up his five-day trip to Beijing on Feb. 13.

Wi said he also expects to be briefed on the outcome of a visit earlier this month by Wang Jiarui, head of the international department of the Communist Party of China, to Pyongyang where the Chinese official met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

Wi's trip to China marks the start of renewed efforts by the countries involved in the six-party talks, as Washington's special representative for North Korea policy, Stephen Bosworth, is set to embark on a trip to this region this week.

Bosworth will leave Washington on Tuesday (local time) to visit South Korea, Japan and China for discussions on reopening the six-party talks, the U.S. State Department said.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan will also visit Washington from Thursday for talks with his U.S. counterpart, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, that are expected to include discussions on North Korea and the stalled nuclear negotiations.

North Korea last month said it will not return to the talks unless U.N. sanctions, imposed shortly after its second nuclear test last year, are first removed and "relevant countries" agree to start discussions for a peace treaty on the Korean Peninsula.

Both Seoul and Washington, allies in the 1950-53 Korean War, have rejected the North Korean demands, saying such concessions will only become available after Pyongyang returns to the nuclear talks and makes progress toward denuclearization.


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