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. South Korean defense chief says China "confident" on new six-way talks
SEOUL (AFP) Apr 04, 2005
South Korea's defense chief, back from a trip to Beijing, said Monday China was "confident" about resuming six-way talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear weapons programs.

But Defense Minster Yoon Kwang-Ung, in China last week for military talks, said Beijing was concerned about impatience building in Seoul and Washington.

"Chinese officials I met in Beiing were all very confident about resuming six-way nuclear talks," Yoon was quoted by a defence ministry spokesman as saying.

"They said South Korea and the United States were hurrying too much. They said it would take time to resolve the nuclear issue just like a piece of ice neither freezes nor melts all at once."

There have been three rounds of talks -- which include the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States -- to resolve the nuclear standoff that flared up in 2002, but little progress has been reported.

After the last round in June last year, North Korea failed to show up for a fourth round, scheduled for September 2004.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, while visiting Japan, South Korea and China last month, warned that US patience was wearing thin and said Washington was considering "other options" if Pyongyang continued staying away from talks.

Yoon was quoted as saying China, the North's key ally and host of the six-way talks, was making "lots of efforts" to revive the stalled negotiations.

During his five-day trip, Yoon met his Chinese counterpart Cao Gangchuan and other top Chinese military leaders.

The Chinese foreign ministry said last month President Hu Jintao was considering a trip to North Korea for talks with reclusive leader Kim Jong-Il as the deadlock continues.

South Korea's unification ministry said Sunday Hu's planned visit to North Korea would be closely linked to the resuming of six-way talks.

North Korea, which declared itself a nuclear power in February, said last week it wants to broaden six-way negotiations into regional disarmament talks, an offer rejected by Washington.

North Korea has one or two crude nuclear devices and may have reprocessed enough plutonium for around six more, according to US intelliegence.

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