A top Chinese envoy to South Korea said Friday it wasn't the right time to discuss referring the North Korean nuclear issue to the U.N. Security Council (search) — a move Pyongyang (search) has condemned would be tantamount to a declaration of war.
"The important issue now is resuming six-party talks soon by any means," Chinese Ambassador to South Korea, Li Bin, told reporters in Seoul.
Efforts are underway to resume nuclear disarmament talks aimed at persuading the North to give up its nuclear ambitions. In February, Pyongyang claimed it already had nuclear weapons and would boycott talks indefinitely.
Security Council deliberations on North Korea's nuclear threat could eventually lead to U.N. economic sanctions, which the North has said it would consider a "declaration of war."
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (search) said Thursday that Washington had no timeline for taking the issue to the council, but they were willing to do that.
"We are willing, when the time is right, when we believe that we have exhausted the possibilities of the framework we are in, to go to the Security Council," Rice told U.S. network Fox News Channel while in Vilnius, Lithuania.
China, North Korea's closest ally and a permanent Security Council member, had thwarted previous U.S. attempts to have the council condemn the North over its nuclear ambitions.
"It is not the right time to discuss the issue of passing a resolution at the Security Council," Li, speaking in Korean, said Friday.
No one was setting the deadline for resuming the disarmament talks, he said, but "all parties should work together for early resumption."
Since 2003, China has hosted three inconclusive rounds of nuclear talks involving the United States, Japan, Russia and the two Koreas.
South Korea confirmed Monday that the North's 5-megawatt nuclear reactor at Yongbyon had been shut down, a sign that North Korea might be planning to reprocess spent fuel rods there to extract plutonium.