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Australian team in Pyongyang

Downer says Australia has a vital interest in finding a solution in Korea
Downer says Australia has a vital interest in finding a solution in Korea

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SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) -- An Australian delegation has landed in Pyongyang to begin four days of talks aimed at alleviating the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula, Australian media report.

The five-member delegation, headed by senior diplomat Murray McLean, is hoping it can call upon Australia's diplomatic links with North Korea to wield some influence in convincing the Stalinist state to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

Australia is one of a handful of Western nations that maintain diplomatic relations with North Korea.

The Australian Associated Press on Tuesday quoted McLean, speaking in Beijing before the final leg of his journey, as saying Australia had a vested interest in bringing stability to the region.

"We have diplomatic relations with North Korea," he said.

"We also happen to have a very strong interest in ensuring the stability and security of this region, so we are looking forward to making some contribution towards that end."

Australia and North Korea agreed in May 2000 to restore diplomatic ties, nearly 25 years after the relations were severed in circumstances never fully explained.

North Korea re-opened its embassy in Canberra last May. Australia was moving towards doing the same in Pyongyang, but said in late December it was putting the relationship on hold after the nuclear crisis escalated.

The delegation hopes to present a letter from Foreign Minister Alexander Downer to his North Korean counterpart Paek Nam-sun calling on Pyongyang to co-operate with diplomatic moves to lower tensions.

It is unlikely they will meet the reclusive leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Il.

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