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China says informal six-party nuclear talks scheduled at ASEAN forum

US negotiator to the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear programme Christopher Hill (L) is greeted by Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei, July 2006. Photo courtesy of Greg Baker and AFP.
by Staff Writers
Kuala Lumpur (AFP) Jul 25, 2006
China said Tuesday an informal meeting of the six nations involved in talks on North Korea's nuclear ambitions had been tentatively scheduled on the sidelines of an Asian security forum here.

Chinese deputy foreign minister Wu Dawei told reporters upon his arrival in Malaysia for the ASEAN Regional Forum that a meeting had been scheduled for Friday, although he cautioned the plans had not yet been finalised.

"The time currently being planned is the afternoon of the 28th, but it is still under negotiation," Wu said.

"At the moment, all sides are still making efforts but whether it will happen or not, nobody can tell yet," he said.

"I hope it will happen. It does not necessarily have to be six-party talks -- it can be a meeting between six foreign ministers," he said.

South Korea also said Tuesday that discussions were under way to bring the foreign ministers of the six nations together in the Malaysian capital, but that North Korea's participation hung in the balance.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) offered to host the talks between North and South Korea, the United States, China, Japan and Russia on the sidelines of the region's top security forum being held here Friday.

But North Korea raised the stakes ahead of the forum, describing US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is also due to attend, as a "political imbecile" for criticising its recent missile tests.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said Monday that the two Koreas would meet on the sidelines of the forum this week, but that the North was unwilling to join the six-nation talks.

The United States and South Korea have shown interest in holding five-way talks if the North refused to join, but Wu on Tuesday reiterated China's opposition to meeting without Pyongyang.

"My feeling is, it is best not to do so, it will lead the six-party talks into more difficulties," he said.

However, China would support direct contact between the North and the United States to defuse the current tensions, Wu said.

"Of course we do, we hope North Korea and the US, as well as all sides, can have contacts between themselves to exchange views," he said in response to a reporter's question.

The United States has refused to meet with the communist nation on a bilateral basis, insisting negotiations have to take place within the six-party framework.

The six-way talks have been stalled since November last year over Pyongyang's objections to US financial sanctions against it.

Related Links

Isolated NKorea peeks out at world at Asian talks: analysts
Kuala Lumpur (AFP) Jul 25, 2006
North Korea's presence at a regional forum here this week provides a rare chance for the pariah state to escape mounting diplomatic isolation after its missile tests, analysts say.

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