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(3rd LD) China opposes any tension-escalating steps by N. Korea
BEIJING/SEOUL, Jan. 21 (Yonhap) -- China's top diplomat said Monday that his country does not support North Korea's nuclear weapons programs or its recent rocket launch, hoping that tension on the Korean Peninsula would be resolved as soon as possible by resuming six-party denulcearization talks.

   Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi made the remarks when he met in Beijing with a four-member delegation sent by South Korea President-elect Park Geun-hye, according to the delegation. The South Korean team, led by former Rep. Kim Moo-sung, arrived in the Chinese capital earlier in the day for a four-day trip.

   During the meeting, the delegation made clear that South Korea will not tolerate the North's nuclear ambitions, but that they believe it is very important to build trust through dialogue with the communist nation.

   According to Shim Yoon-joe, a member of the delegation, Yang praised Park's so-called "Korean Peninsula trust process," which states that if the North accepts denuclearization, large-scale international economic projects will be pursued in the communist country to help restore inter-Korean relations.

   "We said the incoming government is going to continue humanitarian aid, and leave doors open for inter-Korean dialogue," Shim said.

   Inter-Korean relations have effectively been severed during the Lee Myung-bak administration due to a string of provocations by the North and the subsequent hard-line response by Seoul.

   In 2010, North Korea sank a South Korean Navy warship resulting in the deaths of 46 sailors and shelled an island in the Yellow Sea that left four dead. In 2008, a woman tourist was killed during a visit to a scenic mountain resort in the North.

   The North also detonated its second nuclear device in May 2009 and launched a long-range rocket late last year despite international warnings. Seoul halted most exchanges and cooperation projects between the two sides in May 2010.

   Park earlier said China must play an important role in leading North Korea to make the right decision to transform itself.

   China's cooperation is critical in getting the U.N. Security Council to punish North Korea for its long-range rocket launch on Dec. 12 that violated U.N. sanctions.

   China, a key North Korean ally and a veto-wielding permanent member of the Council, has reportedly been reluctant to impose additional sanctions on Pyongyang due to concerns that they may destabilize the isolated nation, and harm the political and economic interests of Beijing.

   Commenting on Beijing's relations with Seoul, Yang said that China considers its relations with South Korea "very" important and that he expects bilateral ties to further grow under the new leaders in both countries, according to the delegation.

   "I believe South Korea under Park's leadership will achieve its growth targets of the new era," Yang was quoted as saying during a meeting with the delegation. "South Korea is very important to China, and our strategic relations will develop into a new stage and take a big leap down the road."

   Upon arrival in Beijing, Kim said he came to create an opportunity to build new trust between South Korea and China.

   "With the (upcoming) launch of the Park Geun-hye administration (in South Korea) and the Xi Jinping administration in China, we have a good opportunity for fresh cooperation and stronger ties between our two countries," Kim told reporters at Beijing Capital International Airport.

   Kim was a key manager of Park's presidential campaign last year.

   Ahead of their visit, Park met with the delegation last Friday and asked them to discuss North Korean issues as well as South Korea's growing ties with China in their meetings with the Chinese leadership.

   On Wednesday, the delegation is scheduled to pay a courtesy call on China's next leader Xi and deliver a personal letter from Park.

   sam@yna.co.kr
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