China Envoy Delivers Message to N. Korea

The Associated Press
Thursday, October 19, 2006; 1:41 PM

SEOUL, South Korea -- A Chinese envoy met with North Korea's leader Thursday amid worries the North will test another nuclear device, and the top U.S. diplomat said America isn't trying to whip up tensions or dictate how nations should enforce sanctions on the North.

"We want to leave open the path of negotiation. We don't want the crisis to escalate," said U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, adding that she hoped the Chinese mission was successful in getting Pyongyang to scuttle its nuclear program.

Hopes were also high that China could discourage the North from carrying out an apparent threat to stage a second atomic blast. Beijing has long been Pyongyang's closest ally and biggest trading partner.

The Chinese mission met with reclusive North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and delivered a message from China's president, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters in Beijing. It was the highest-level Chinese visit to its isolated ally since the Oct. 9 nuclear test.

Liu said the visit was "very significant," but he had no details about the message. However, he said the envoys had "in-depth discussions on China-North Korea relations, as well as the prevailing situation on the Korean Peninsula."

"We hope China's diplomatic efforts ... will bear fruit," Liu said.

The North's official Korean Central News Agency said in a brief report the Chinese mission included State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan, Beijing's nuclear envoy Wu Dawei and Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo.

U.S. media have reported that satellite images showed suspicious activity at a suspected North Korean nuclear site.

The North contends it needs nuclear weapons to counter U.S. aggression. The United States has repeatedly said it does not intend to attack the North or topple its communist government. The two Koreas remain technically at war, since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a cease-fire that persists to this day.

After meeting with Rice, South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon warned North Korea against doing anything more to stoke tensions. "A second nuclear test by North Korea should never take place," said Ban, selected this month to be the next U.N. secretary-general.

The North's nuclear test last week presented a serious challenge to U.S.-South Korean ties, which have long been strained by fundamental differences about how to deal with Pyongyang. The U.S. has called for a tougher line, while South Korea has been reluctant to make moves that could inflame tensions.

South Korea and China have been reluctant to comply with a sanction that calls for the inspection of cargo on ships sailing to and from the North.

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