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Dispute over US Assertion Is Obstacle in Nuke Standoff

China and the Republic of Korea (ROK) agreed Monday the major impediment to the 21-month standoff over the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula lies in a dispute over the US allegation that Pyongyang has a highly enriched uranium-based nuclear weapons programme, the Yonhap news agency said.

This news came after a meeting between China's ambassador on the nuclear issue Ning Fukui and his ROK counterpart Cho Tae-yong Monday in the ROK to co-ordinate a timetable and agenda for the fourth round of six-party talks in September.

"I believe it is now time to have specific discussions on how to call a working-level meeting and how to have a good fourth round of talks," Ning told Cho before their closed-door meeting, according to the news agency.

The Chinese envoy is scheduled to meet Lee Jong-seok, deputy head of the secretariat of the ROK National Security Council, before leaving for Japan today.

China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), the United States, ROK, Russia and Japan have held three rounds of talks in Beijing aimed at realizing a nuclear weapon-free Korean Peninsula while addressing the DPRK's security and energy concerns.

Ning's visit comes after the US Special Envoy on Korean Peninsula Affairs Joseph DeTrani held talks with Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Ning in Beijing last week without giving out any details, such as the exact time for the working-level session which was reported might be held in the middle of this month.

The six parties agreed in their last talks to meet again before the end of September.

Wang said that the parties should hold a working meeting as soon as possible to have in-depth discussions on how to implement the first phase actions for nuclear dismantlement and on other concrete issues, so as to take real steps towards denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula at the earliest date.

In Washington, Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Soo-hyuck is also scheduled to meet US Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly early this week.

Deputy US Department of State spokesman Adam Ereli said on Friday that the US side presented a serious proposal at the last plenary. "We expect to get their response to our proposal at the next plenary.

"We're not expecting a quick response and... we look forward to the next plenary where we can continue to build on what we've accomplished in the last three rounds," the spokesman said at a regular briefing.

The nuclear issue erupted in October 2002 when US officials said Pyongyang had admitted to a covert programme to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons. Pyongyang has since denied such a programme.

(China Daily August 3, 2004)

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Ministry of Foreign Affairs
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