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China, Russia Skip New York Meeting On North Korea

Missing in action: Russian President Putin and Chinese counterpart Hu.
by Staff Writers
New York (AFP) Sep 21, 2006
China and Russia stayed away from a US-organised ministerial meeting here Thursday on how to draw North Korea back to talks on its nuclear weapons program, officials said. US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said the Chinese and Russians provided no explanation for their absence, though he said the countries' foreign ministers had met earlier this week with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

"They didn't say it was for policy reasons; it may have been an issue of scheduling," he said after the meeting.

Asked if the United States considered their absence a snub, Hill said: "No I do not."

"We kind of know where they are on these issues" following the earlier meetings with Rice, he said.

But earlier this week, the State Department urged China to attend the meeting, in light of a general belief that Beijing has not been doing enough to pressure North Korea to return to negotiations on its nuclear program.

China's presence "would send an important signal to the North Koreans," spokesman Sean McCormack said Monday.

Hill, Washington's point man in the stalled negotiations, said several participants at Thursday's meeting "said they thought that China should be doing more" in the process.

Attending Thursday's meeting, chaired by Rice, were the foreign ministers of South Korea, Australia, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Canada and the Philippines representing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Hill said.

Washington extended an invitation to North Korea to attend the talks through Pyongyang's office at the United Nations here, but it did not attend.

"We always invite them, and they always turn us down. Yes. They don't like to talk to people," Hill said.

Thursday's meeting came almost a year to the day since a breakthrough agreement on September 19, 2005, that brought North Korea into multinational talks on nuclear disarmament.

Washington and its partners in those talks -- South Korea, China, Japan and Russia -- offered economic and diplomatic incentives to North Korea in exchange for giving up its drive to develop nuclear weapons.

But Pyongyang began boycotting the six-nation process two months later in protest at US financial sanctions aimed at halting alleged money-laundering and other practices by the cash-strapped government.

Earlier this week, Japan and Australia imposed financial sanctions on North Korea linked to that country's ballistic missile program.

In July, Washington expanded the moribund diplomatic effort to include Australia, Canada, Indonesia, ASEAN and New Zealand, creating the five-plus-five forum.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang criticized the move by Japan on Tuesday to slap financial sanctions on North Korea.

"The Chinese government has always advocated that this issue should be resolved by dialogue, and we are opposed to sanctions," he said.

"All parties concerned should focus on how to resume the talks as soon as possible and avoid any actions that may further complicate the situation."

Last year, North Korea said it had a nuclear bomb and has hinted that it may be preparing to test one.

Hill said the meeting Thursday discussed the possibility of such a test.

"I'm not in a position to say whether they're close or not (to testing). Certainly, it's something that all the participants made very clear would be a most unwelcome development," he said.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Ahmadinejad Says Iran Does Not Need Nuclear Bomb
United Nations (AFP) Sep 21, 2006
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