China has stepped up efforts to break the deadlock on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue as senior Chinese negotiators and their foreign counterparts met on Friday to discuss Pyongyang's missile tests.
State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan said China has been committed to preserving peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, making it nuclear-free and pushing forward with the Six-Party Talks.
"We will continue to make constructive efforts and maintain close contact with all sides" on the nuclear issue, he told US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill during a one-hour meeting.
Hill said his country attaches importance to the six-nation talks and is willing to settle the problems through diplomacy.
Washington hopes Pyongyang "can return to the framework of the Six-Party Talks as soon as possible," he told reporters.
The United States has achieved "very good understanding" with China on the current situation, and hopes to work with China to deal with it, the US envoy said.
Hill, who is also chief US envoy for the six-nation talks, arrived in Beijing on Friday morning after Wednesday's test-firing of seven missiles by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
Hill also talked to Vice-Foreign Minister Wu Dawei and met with Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing in the morning.
He concluded his brief stay in Beijing in the afternoon and headed to Seoul.
Kenichiro Sasae, Japan's chief negotiator to the Six-Party Talks, also met Wu in the afternoon.
"It is important that China take an appropriate response concerning this (missile test) issue and I sought China's co-operation" at the Security Council, Sasae told reporters.
The meetings came only hours after President Hu Jintao and his US counterpart George W. Bush spoke by phone about the missile launches.
While Bush called for a coordinated response to Pyongyang, Hu urged calm and restraint.
Wu, China's top negotiator to the Six-Party Talks, will accompany Vice-Premier Hui Liangyu on a visit to Pyongyang next week, which is expected to help defuse the missile crisis.
China and Russia have insisted on negotiating without threats of punishment. After a second day of meetings on Thursday in New York, China and Russia refused to back a Japanese-sponsored resolution and said they preferred a milder statement with no mention of sanctions.
But Japan and the United States are seeking a toughly worded UN Security Council condemnation.
Hill told reporters on Friday afternoon that he did not discuss sanctions in talks with China.
Pyongyang lashed out at Tokyo on Friday for imposing sanctions and threatened "stronger actions" against Japan if its sanctions were not lifted.
Japan has banned a DPRK ferry from entering its ports for six months as part of a package of initial sanctions.
"This may force us to take stronger physical actions," Kyodo news agency quoted Song Il-ho, the DPRK's ambassador in charge of diplomatic normalization talks with Japan, as saying.
The DPRK's councilor at the UN mission in Geneva, Choe Myong-nam, told the ROK's Yonhap news agency that Wednesday's volley of missiles were "not an attack on someone" and defended Pyongyang's right to such launches.
"From an international point of view, it is not fair to say who can do one thing and who can't," Choe said. "The same applies to possessing nuclear weapons."
The ROK will delay food and fertilizer shipments to the DPRK until the missile crisis is resolved, Yonhap reported on Friday.
"We will hold off" on plans to send 100,000 tons of fertilizer to the North (DPRK), Yonhap quoted a high-level government official as saying.
"In addition, we will hold off on providing 500,000 tons of rice," said the official, who requested anonymity. "This will continue until there is an exit out of the missile problem."
The ROK, however, announced it would hold ministerial talks with the DPRK as scheduled next week, the first high-level contact with Pyongyang since the July 4 tests.
(China Daily via agencies July 8, 2006)