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Beijing urges restraint on N. Korea

Willy Wo-Lap Lam
CNN Senior China Analyst

The International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation board of governors meeting to discuss the North Korea crisis in Vienna
The International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation board of governors meeting to discuss the North Korea crisis in Vienna

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HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- Beijing has urged restraint in the global community's attempts to force Pyongyang to roll back its nuclear development program.

However, senior Chinese diplomats have also indicated China's readiness to join in international efforts to defuse the latest crisis on the Korean Peninsula.

Chinese Ambassador to the UN and other global bodies based in Vienna, Zhang Yan, said on Monday that "peacefully resolving the Korean question through dialogue will tally with the interests of relevant countries and be beneficial to regional peace and stability."

Zhang, who attended a special session of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on stopping Pyongyang's nuclear program, urged all parties to exercise restraint.

"We should use a cool-headed and cautious attitude in handling relevant questions," the state media on Tuesday quoted Zhang as saying.

"We should avoid actions that may lead to an escalation of the [North Korean] situation."

No public criticisms

However, Beijing's representatives to the IAEA did not raise objections to the agency's resolution condemning Pyongyang's violation of non-proliferation obligations and calling on it to immediately re-admit weapons inspectors.

Zhang indicated it was consistent Chinese policy to support all international efforts to promote the de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Diplomatic analysts in Beijing said senior Chinese officials had continued to refrain from making public criticisms of the brinksmanship of the Kim Jong-Il regime.

The analysts said the Communist party leadership was following a two-pronged policy regarding the nuclear gambit of its neighbor and ally.

Diplomatic dialogue

"In private meetings, Chinese diplomats have told their North Korean counterparts to de-escalate the latter's nuclear program," said a Beijing-based Asian diplomat.

"In public, however, Beijing, together with Moscow, has urged the U.S. to stick to diplomatic dialogue and other political means to resolve the crisis."

It is understood that Beijing has warned the U.S. not to inflame the situation by threatening to use force against Pyongyang.

Individual Chinese and Russian officials have pointed out that Washington's branding of North Korea as a member of the "axis of evil" and its withdrawal of economic and other aid to Pyongyang was one reason behind Kim's use of nuclear blackmail.

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