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(LEAD) China calls for swift restart of nuclear talks with N. Korea

All News 18:31 January 22, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS quote in para 5, details in last para)

BEIJING, Jan. 22 (Yonhap) -- China urged all relevant countries on Friday to make joint efforts to resume long-stalled nuclear talks on ending North Korea's nuclear programs as South Korea floated the idea of holding talks without North Korea.

The disarmament-for-aid talks, involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan, have been stalled since late 2008.

North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6 in the clearest sign that it has no intention of giving up nuclear ambition.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei called for the "relevant parties" to "restart the six-party talks at an early date, move forward the goal of denuclearization and ensure long-term stability and development of the (Korean) peninsula."

"Considering the current situation on the Korean Peninsula, dialogue and negotiation are still the fundamental way to resolve the Korean nuclear issue," Hong said.

The comments came hours after South Korean President Park Geun-hye proposed that the five countries hold a meeting to press Pyongyang to abandon nuclear programs as she questioned the effectiveness of the six-nation nuclear talks.

North Korea quit the nuclear talks in 2009, but it later expressed its desire to return to the negotiating table without any preconditions.

But South Korea and the U.S. have said that Pyongyang must first show its sincerity toward denuclearization before such talks can resume.

All eyes are on the role of China, which keeps North Korea's moribund economy afloat.

China is under growing pressure from South Korea and the U.S. to use its economic leverage on North Korea to make it abandon its nuclear programs.

China is North Korea's top trading partner and supplies almost all of the isolated ally's energy needs. China has also said it is "firmly opposed" to the nuclear test, but Beijing's leadership has been reluctant to use more leverage over Pyongyang because it could lead to the North's collapse and instability at its border.

China puts its top priority on maintaining the stability of North Korea, rather than the country's denuclearization, because Beijing still views Pyongyang as a buffer against U.S. influence in Northeast Asia, analysts say.


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