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(LEAD) China's Xi expresses firm opposition to N. Korean nuclear program: official

2013/10/07 16:13

(ATTN: UPDATES in paras 1-12, last 2 paras with briefing; CHANGES headline)

By Chang Jae-soon

BALI, Indonesia, Oct. 7 (Yonhap) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed staunch opposition to North Korea going nuclear or conducting additional atomic tests, and pledged to vigorously carry out U.N. sanctions resolutions on Pyongyang, a South Korean official said.

Xi made the remark when he met bilaterally with South Korean President Park Geun-hye on the sidelines of an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Indonesia's resort island of Bali, after Park voiced concerns about Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions, the official said.

"The Chinese side (Xi) said he opposes North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons and that he is also resolutely opposed to an additional nuclear test by North Korea," the official said. Xi also pledged to "strictly abide" by U.N. Security Council resolutions on Pyongyang, he said.

The remarks came in response to Park citing a need to stop North Korea from honing its nuclear capabilities, and asked China to help prod Pyongyang to focus on rebuilding its broken economy, the official said.

"(North Korea) can't pour everything into nuclear weapons at a time when many North Korean people are said to be suffering from chronic malnutrition," Park said at the start of the talks. "I hope China will work hard to persuade North Korea to concentrate on economic development."

  

South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Indonesia's resort island of Bali on Oct. 7. (Yonhap)

The 45-minute meeting came days after North Korea said Friday that it will move steadfastly forward with its line of simultaneously seeking economic construction and nuclear armament, making clear it has no intention of desisting from its nuclear weapons push.

Last month, a U.S. research institute said that recent satellite images appeared to show that North Korea was restarting a nuclear reactor at the country's main Yongbyon nuclear complex, which can yield weapons-grade plutonium.

After its third nuclear test in February, North Korea has expressed its willingness to return to the six-party talks aimed at ending the North's nuclear program. Seoul and Washington have demanded the North demonstrate its denuclearization commitments before the talks restart.

The Chinese-hosted talks, which also involve the two Koreas, Japan, Russia and the United States, have been dormant since the last session in late 2008. Pyongyang has since carried out its second and third nuclear tests in 2009 and this year. The first test came in 2006.

During Monday's talks, Xi called for an early resumption of the six-party talks, while Park stressed that the North's nuclear programs should be scrapped in a complete and verifiable manner, the South Korean official said.

As the main aide provider to the impoverished North, China has long been considered the only country with any meaningful influence over Pyongyang. But Beijing is also concerned that pushing the North too hard could hurt its national interests.

Monday's meeting between Park and Xi was their third in less than four months, including Park's state visit to China in June and a meeting in Russia last month on the margins of a summit of the Group of 20 economies.

Park also expressed her gratitude that China has relayed to Pyongyang her proposal to build an international peace park inside the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the heavily armed border with the communist nation.

The DMZ peace park project is one of President Park's outreach projects to North Korea. She first unveiled the vision during her visit to the United States in May and formally proposed the project on August. But questions persist about its possibility due to tensions with Pyongyang.

The DMZ is a four-kilometer-wide buffer zone separating the two Koreas. The two sides still technically remain in a state of conflict after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, and their border is one of the world's most heavily fortified.

Park also thanked Xi for China's role in helping restart an inter-Korean industrial complex in the North's border city of Kaesong. She expressed regret, however, that Pyongyang unilaterally called off an agreed-upon plan to hold reunions for separated families at the last minute last month.

Xi also talked about the importance of bilateral relations.

"This is our third meeting since June. This shows how important relations between our two countries are," Xi said. "When the president visited China in June, we exchanged in-depth views on bilateral relations, and regional and international issues ... I think this is very meaningful for a permanent and stable development of China-South Korea relations."

   Xi also said that the two nations have become important partners to each other in all sectors, adding that the sides have established regular dialogue mechanisms in almost all areas, including the diplomatic, parliamentary, defense, and economic and trade sectors.

"Thanks to our joint efforts, political trust between our two countries is continuing to deepen," Xi said.

Park and Xi also hailed recent progress in free trade negotiations between the two countries. Last month, the two sides concluded their seventh round of free trade talks after reaching an agreement on the modality, or basic guidelines, for the negotiations.

In Monday's meeting, Xi said he expects a high-quality and balanced deal from the talks. Park also called for continued cooperation between the two countries to conclude the negotiations at an early date, the official said.

jschang@yna.co.kr

(END)

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