(3rd LD) North Korean leader says willing to resolve nuclear dispute through talks |
(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead, UPDATES with Xinhua report on Kim's remarks through 6th para)
By Kim Hyun
SEOUL, Sept. 18 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il said in talks with a Chinese presidential envoy on Friday that he is willing to resolve an ongoing nuclear standoff with the international community through "bilateral or multilateral dialogue," China's news agency said.
"North Korea will continue to maintain its goal of denuclearization and make efforts for the protection of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula," Kim was quoted by Xinhua News Agency as telling Dai Bingguo in the talks.
"I hope to resolve this issue through bilateral or multilateral dialogue," he was quoted as saying.
Dai, a Chinese state councilor, arrived in the North Korean capital two days earlier as a special envoy of President Hu Jintao amid stepped-up regional diplomatic efforts to bring Pyongyang back to the six-party denuclearization talks.
In a letter to Kim conveyed through his envoy, Hu said, "It is China's consistent goal to realize denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and to safeguard and promote peace, stability and development of Northeast Asia," Xinhua said. "China is ready to spare no effort to work with the DPRK (North Korea) to realize such a goal," Hu said in the letter.
The North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Kim "expressed thanks for this and asked the special envoy to convey his regards" to Hu. The two held talks "in an amicable atmosphere" on relations between the two countries and "a series of issues of mutual concern," it said.
The report gave no further details, but the meeting comes as the United States is considering holding direct talks with North Korea on nuclear disarmament.
Dai's visit highlighted China's role as a mediator between North Korea and the U.S., currently deadlocked in six-party talks that also involve South Korea, Japan and Russia.
On Wednesday, Dai exchanged "candid and in-depth" views with North Korea's first vice foreign minister, Kang Sok-ju, about bilateral relations and international issues, the KCNA said. Kang is in charge of the North's diplomacy regarding the six-party talks aimed at ending the country's nuclear weapons program.
Dai was accompanied by Wu Dawei, China's chief envoy to the nuclear talks.
The visit came ahead of an expected trip to Pyongyang by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao early next month to mediate envisioned one-on-one talks between North Korea and the United States.
North Korea previously pledged to terminate its nuclear drive in exchange for diplomatic and economic benefits from other members of the talks but quit the forum in April to protest U.N. sanctions imposed over its long-range rocket test. The country conducted its second nuclear test in May, drawing stronger U.N. sanctions.
Dai also met with Kim Yong-nam, the North's nominal No. 2 leader, on Thursday. The two watched a classic Chinese opera reenacted by North Korean artists, "The Dream of the Red Chamber," at the Pyongyang Grand Theater. The allies are celebrating the 60th anniversary of their relations this year.