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(LEAD) S. Korea, China discuss ways on denuclearizing N. Korea

2013/08/20 15:27

(ATTN: ADDS visit by South Korean lawmakers to Beijing in last 2 paras)

BEIJING, Aug. 20 (Yonhap) -- Former senior officials and academics from South Korea and China held a forum on Tuesday to discuss ways to bolster cooperation to end North Korea's nuclear weapons program and restart talks with Pyongyang, an official said.

Scores of leaders and professors from the two nations, including former South Korean Prime Minister Lee Soo-sung and Xu Jialu, former vice chairman of the standing committee of the National People's Congress, attended the one-day, closed-door forum at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in China's capital, according to the official at the South Korean Embassy in Beijing.

"The forum is aimed at exploring ideas on further strengthening bilateral cooperation between the two nations to end North Korea's nuclear program," he said.

On Monday, the former Korean prime minister Lee met with China's top political adviser Yu Zhengsheng.

During the meeting, Yu, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, reaffirmed China's commitment to "denuclearize the Korean Peninsula," according to a report by Xinhua News Agency.

As a key provider of economic aid and diplomatic protection to North Korea, China has long been regarded as the only country with any meaningful influence over Pyongyang. But Beijing has been reluctant to use that leverage over concerns that pushing the North too hard could hurt its national interests.

However, China has been taking an unusually tough stance on Pyongyang since the provocative regime pressed ahead with a long-range rocket launch in December and its third nuclear test in February in spite of China's appeals.

Separately, a group of eight South Korean lawmakers, led by Rep. Lee Byung-suk of the ruling Saenuri Party, is on a visit to Beijing to meet with Chinese legislators, embassy officials said.

Lee is scheduled to hold a meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang later in the day, with bilateral cooperation and North Korea's nuclear standoff expected to top the agenda, they said.

kdh@yna.co.kr

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