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'Constructive' China pushes for diplomacy

By Willy Wo-Lap Lam
CNN Senior China Analyst

S. Korean soldiers patrol an area near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) of Panmunjom, north of Seoul
S. Korean soldiers patrol an area near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) of Panmunjom, north of Seoul

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HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- Beijing has dropped strong hints it is not opposed to the United Nations Security Council putting pressure on Pyongyang to roll back its nuclear weapons program.

Also, diplomatic sources in the Chinese capital say Beijing had sent emissaries to North Korea to persuade the Kim Jong Il regime to come down from its brinksmanship.

In a press briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhang Qiyue said Beijing hoped the Korean problem could be solved peacefully through dialogue among relevant parties.

Official media on Wednesday quoted Zhang as saying Beijing had played a "constructive role" in defusing the crisis through "frequent contact with various parties."

Zhang did not give a straight answer to a press question on whether China would agree to the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, raising the matter of Pyongyang's nuclear program to the U.N. Security Council.

"As to whether the [North Korean] question should be referred to the Security Council, our view is that the question should be resolved through dialogue among various parties," she said.

Diplomatic sources in Beijing said while the Chinese government had insisted North Korea's nuclear weapons issue be handled through diplomatic means, it would not raise opposition to the Security Council putting pressure on Pyongyang.

The sources said Beijing had dispatched diplomats to Pyongyang to persuade the Kim regime to roll back its nuclear program and de-escalate its war of words with the U.S.

At the press conference, Zhang did not say specifically whether Beijing had sent emissaries to Pyongyang.

However, she indicated that "since China and North Korea are friendly neighbors, we have normal exchanges and contacts."

Immediately after Pyongyang had admitted to a U.S. emissary last October that it was developing nuclear weapons, Beijing has discouraged paramount leader Kim from making a China visit.

However, senior diplomats from both sides have engaged in regular consultation on how the crisis can be averted in such a way as to best serve the interests of China and North Korea.

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