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(LEAD) China urges resumption of nuclear talks after U.N. condemns attack on S. Korean warship

All Headlines 00:44 July 10, 2010

(ATTN: CHANGES slug, headline, lead; ADDS paras 2-4)
By Kim Young-gyo

HONG KONG, July 9 (Yonhap) -- China urged on Friday the resumption of talks aimed at denuclearizing North Korea immediately following the adoption of a U.N. Security Council (UNSC) statement on the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship in March.

"The U.N. Security Council issued a presidential statement on the Cheonan incident," Qin Gang, spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, said in a statement.

"We hope the relevant parties to remain calm and take this opportunity to quickly move to the next page of the Cheonan incident. We call for the early resumption of the six-party talks," he said, referring to the multinational talks on ending the North's nuclear weapons programs, which have been stalled since December 2008.

The 15-member Council, including China, unanimously approved the statement after a month of tug-of-war that began when South Korea referred the case to the global security body for a rebuke of the North.

Pyongyang denies any involvement in the March 26 attack, which killed 46 sailors, threatening an "all-out war" if any condemnation or sanctions come from the Security Council, even though an international probe concluded in May that North Korea was responsible.

China, the North's major ally and largest benefactor, had been expressing reservations about Seoul's move to censure Pyongyang, saying it is important to "maintain peace on the Korean Peninsula" and not further "provoke the North."

U.S. President Barack Obama called on China last week to join international efforts to rebuke North Korea for the sinking, criticizing Beijing for its "willful blindness" to Pyongyang on the Cheonan issue.

Beijing, then, did not seem to have a big change in its attitude toward the issue.

"As we have repeatedly clarified China's position on the Cheonan incident, we hope the relevant parties maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and properly handle the issue," Qin said Thursday at a semiweekly press briefing.

When asked how much China conceded to the statement, a South Korean official said, "Both sides had to work to narrow the gap. From our perspective, we both showed a lot of flexibility."

China is one of five veto-holding permanent members of the Council.

During consultations at the Security Council, China was reportedly opposed to directly accusing North Korea and using the words "attack" and "condemn" in the statement.

While coming short of explicitly blaming North Korea, the statement said that "the Security Council condemns the attack which led to the sinking of the Cheonan."

It also took note of North Korea's denials of involvement, but said that the Security Council holds "deep concern" over the findings of the Seoul-led multinational probe that incriminated Pyongyang.


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