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China Sets Sights on Nuclear-free Peninsula

Amid growing common ground, negotiators at the six-party talks on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue will continue their efforts until the weekend.


"It is necessary to continue the process of the six-party talks for there are still differences, difficulties and contradictions among different sides," Wang Yi, China's chief negotiator was quoted by a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman on Friday as saying.


Hints from different sources indicated that this round of talks will last at least until Saturday.


Liu Jianchao, spokesman of Chinese Foreign Ministry, told reporters after the third day of discussion that no date has been set to end the talks.


However, Republic of Korea (ROK) delegation head Lee Soo-Hyuck said the six parties were trying to wrap up the talks on Saturday.


A source from the US embassy in China said the US delegation will stay on until the end.


Meanwhile, the Japanese delegation issued a notice Friday noon saying that Japan is "making efforts in close collaboration with China for the success of six-party talks."


The first round of six-party talks held in August involving the same nations -- China, Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), the United States, ROK, Russia and Japan, lasted for only three days.


This time, all parties left an open-ended timetable with hopes of striving for more progress, analysts said.


The approach seems to be working.


Wang, who hosts the talks, described Friday's meeting as "active and beneficial", said Liu.


During Friday's talks, all sides made their own proposal for the setup of working group and the date for the next round of the talks, Liu said.


US Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Thursday at a Senate hearing that the results of the first two days' meetings were positive and expressed hopes the talks will move in the right direction.


ROK President Roh Moo-hyun said on Friday that he hoped the talks would reach a peaceful solution to the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula.


"Our best efforts have been made to help find a peaceful solution to the DPRK nuclear issue, and most problems have either been overcome or are moving toward solutions," Roh said at an international conference at a Seoul hotel.


"Still, some problems remain, but solutions are taking shape, and hope is in sight," Roh was quoted by Yonhap News Agency.


Meanwhile, despite stark disagreements highlighted by the talks, observers were cautiously optimistic that the parties will move beyond a basic agreement to continue negotiations.


DPRK put forward a proposal to comprehensively stop nuclear activities on Thursday which was applauded by all sides, according to source from Chinese foreign ministry.


But a DPRK official pointed Thursday night at the United States' hard-line stance that Pyongyang should first abandon its nuclear programs before getting any compensation.


Liu said on Friday that China maintains that the Korean peninsula should have no nuclear weapon in any form.


He stressed the US delegation's consistent stance calls for "complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling" of the DPRK's nuclear programs.


But Liu said China hopes to take things one step further. China's stance is based on the country's desire to address all the concerns of the six parties, Liu said. Not least of them are "the security concerns" of DPRK.


Diplomats in Asia described the tone of the second round of talks as "calm and constructive".


The United States and DPRK have also held one-on-one meetings during each of the first two days as well as participating in group discussions.


On Friday, the six sides also exchanged views on the establishment of working groups to push for a resolution of the standoff which erupted in October 2002 when US officials said DPRK had admitted to reviving a programme to produce atomic weapons.


(Xinhua News Agency February 28, 2004)

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