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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

VOICE OF AMERICA
SLUG: 2-314384 China / North Korea
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=03/23/2004

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT-L

TITLE=CHINA / NORTH KOREA (L-ONLY)

NUMBER=2-314384

BYLINE=KURT ACHIN

DATELINE=HONG KONG

INTRO: China's Foreign Minister is making a rare visit to North Korea for talks expected to try and find a way to bring about a resumption of stalled six-party talks on the North Korean nuclear issue. Kurt Achin reports from Hong Kong.

TEXT: Chinese officials say they hope Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing's visit to Pyongyang with produce what they call a "positive result."

China has played a major role in diplomacy on the North Korean nuclear issue by hosting two rounds of six-nation talks that included Russia, Japan, the two Koreas and the United States.

The second round of those talks wrapped up last month with no breakthroughs, but a pledge to keep dialogue going.

Spokesman Kong Quan says it is the first visit to Pyongyang by the Chinese Foreign Minister in five years.

///KONG ACT-MANDARIN, ESTABLISH & FADE///

Mr. Kong says the meeting is an important starting point towards forming working groups for the next round of talks.

North Korea says it is strengthening what it calls its "nuclear deterrent" to what it views as a hostile U-S policy. It cites the U-S invasion of Iraq and North Korea's inclusion in President Bush's "axis of evil."

North Korea says it will only eliminate its nuclear programs in exchange for formal U-S security guarantees and economic aid.

The United States says North Korea has admitted to violating pledges not to pursue nuclear weapons, and says North Korea's word alone can no longer be trusted. U-S officials say North Korea must verifiably eliminate its nuclear capabilities before it receives any U-S concessions.

Japan and South Korea are both planning to send their foreign ministers to Beijing soon after Mr. Li returns from North Korea. Senior diplomats from both countries are meeting Tuesday in Seoul. They say it is ultimately up to Pyongyang when the next round of six-party talks takes place.

/// REST OPT ///

On Monday, Pyongyang postponed economic talks with the South for the second week in a row. South Korean officials say the North cited ongoing U-S South Korean military exercises.

Last week's scheduled talks were postponed because of what North Korea called "political instability" in caused by the impeachment of South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun. A court decision to resolve Mr. Roh's status could take as long as six months. (SIGNED)

HK/NEB/KA/KBK



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