US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, also the top US delegate to the six-party talks on the Korean nuclear issue, will visit China next week as part of a renewed push to revive the stalled negotiations, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday.
Hill is scheduled to visit Beijing next Wednesday and Thursday for talks with Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei before flying to Seoul, the ministry's spokesman Liu Jianchao told a regular news briefing in Beijing.
Hill's visit comes on the heels of a New York Times report that Washington was considering a new approach to Pyongyang that would involve beginning negotiations on a peace treaty at the same time as the six-party talks.
Liu said the negotiations are presently facing difficulties and require the relevant sides to adopt a flexible attitude and push for the early resumption of discussions in order to make continuous progress.
He said that China would "welcome the two sides (the US and North Korea) to take practical measures to narrow their differences and reach a consensus," pushing forward the goal of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and lasting peace in Northeast Asia.
The six-party talks, involving China, the US, Russia, Japan, North and South Korea, are at an impasse. The last round of talks ended last September on a less-than-positive note.
North Korea accused the US of imposing economic sanctions against it and set the lifting of such sanctions as a precondition for resuming the talks.
In another development, Liu deflected concerns over reports of Beijing's purchase of US military equipment, saying the allegation of spying is "totally fictitious."
He said China has a set of strict examination and supervision procedures for military trading and enterprises tasked with importing military equipment for the Chinese military would never make a purchase without "legal and effective" documents from suppliers.
The retort was in response to the case of a man from Taiwan who worked as a sales representative for the Pentagon's biggest supplier and who pleaded guilty on Wednesday to plotting to ship advanced US weapons to China, including parts for US fighter jets.
"The so-called allegations that China is conducting intelligence collection of military science and technology in the US are purely fictitious," Liu said.
It is reported that the Taiwan man also pleaded guilty in a US federal court to being a covert agent for China.
Turning to Sino-Japanese relations, Liu said both sides have gained a further understanding of each other's position, which is conducive for the narrowing of differences, although there was no breakthrough in the fifth round of talks on the East China Sea issue held in Tokyo yesterday.
He said China is willing to continue sincere talks with Japan on this issue in a responsible and active manner.
In response to a question concerning China's preparations for emergency cases such as the recent unrest in the Solomon Islands, Liu said China will strengthen consular protection of its overseas organizations and citizens.
In other announcements, Liu told reporters the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will hold its summit meeting on June 15 in Shanghai, and heads of state of the six SCO member countries will attend.
The member countries have agreed to invite those with observer status as well as those countries and international organizations that have established cooperative relations with the SCO, he said.
In 2004 and 2005, the SCO accepted Mongolia, Iran, Indonesia and India as observers.
The organization has also set up official links with many international organizations, including the UN and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Answering a question about whether Iran will attend the meeting, Liu said that that was Iran's decision.
According to Liu, the summit will review and sum up the achievements and experiences of the organization since it was established five years ago.
The meeting will also decide the organization's development orientation and measures to be adopted in future, Liu said.
Established in 2001, the SCO now groups China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Liu also voiced his hope that China's efforts to combat SARS would be appreciated fairly and objectively by various parties including the World Health Organization (WHO).
He said the Chinese government and people have demonstrated their resolve, solidarity and strong sense of responsibility in fighting the disease in 2003.
The Chinese government not only successfully eliminated SARS within China's territory and safeguarded the life and health of its people, but forged a good exchange of experience and cooperation mechanism with other countries and international organizations such as the WHO.
Liu said East Timor President Xanana Gusmao will visit China from May 29 to June 3 at the invitation of President Hu Jintao.
(Xinhua News Agency, China Daily May 19, 2006)