BEIJING – China appealed for "coolheadedness" on all sides in the North Korean nuclear crisis Friday, after Kim Jong-Il reportedly said no further nuclear tests were planned.
Beijing has not released details of a meeting between State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan and the North Korean leader, but the South Korean news agency Yonhap reported that Kim told Tang "we have no plans for additional nuclear tests."
China dispatched Tang to Pyongyang this week to warn the North against a second test and try to bring it back to the arms talks.
A South Korean newspaper, citing diplomatic sources in China, reported that Kim apologized to Tang for carrying out the nuclear test and said the North would return to nuclear talks if Washington dropped financial sanctions.
"If the U.S. makes a concession to some degree, we will also make a concession to some degree, whether it be bilateral talks or six-party talks," Kim was quoted as saying by the Chosun Ilbo.
The North has boycotted the talks since the United States imposed sanctions last year on North Korean companies accused of counterfeiting American currency and money-laundering and on a bank in the Chinese territory of Macau that dealt with them.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Tang in Beijing after meeting with Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing.
Before cameras were ushered from the room Tang was overheard telling Rice his trip "was not in vain."
"We hope all relevant parties will maintain coolheadedness, adopt a prudent and a responsible approach and adhere to peaceful dialogue," Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said, following a meeting with Rice.
Rice appealed to North Korea to return to stalled international talks over its nuclear program without condition. Concluding urgent talks in Asia in response to the North's Oct. 9 nuclear test, Rice played down differences among the U.S., China and South Korea over the strength and tone of world response to Pyongyang.
She told reporters China has new resolve against the North that shows it has reevaluated its relationship with Pyongyang. Last week's United Nations Security Council vote to impose sanctions on Pyongyang proves the point, Rice said.
"In this entire 30-year history of the North Korean nuclear program this is the first time that the international system has been able to actually impose a cost on North Korea for its nuclear behavior," Rice said. "It's able to impose that cost because China has been brought into the process in a way that China never was before."
The U.S.-backed sanctions were watered down partly at China's request, but China's vote in favor of punishment still represents a shift for Beijing.
The underground test confirmed the North's claim that it has nuclear weapons capability and raised fears of potential war or an arms race in Asia. Although it is not likely to be a direct target of an attack, the United States is playing a central role in pushing for a strong international demand that the North give up its weapons.
Last weekend's U.N. resolution calls for inspections of cargo leaving and arriving in North Korea to prevent it from acquiring or selling weapons of mass destruction or advanced arms like jet fighters.
At a brief joint appearance with Li, Rice said both President Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao want a peaceful diplomatic solution. She did not mention the U.S. military commitment to defend allies Japan and South Korea from an attack by the North, a centerpiece of her remarks in those nations earlier this week.
"We also talked about the importance of leaving open a path to negotiation," through the six-way arms talks, Rice said. North Korea has boycotted the negotiations for nearly a year. Rice said the North "should return to those talks without condition," and begin to carry out an agreement it made last year to give up its weapons program.
Rice's conciliatory tone appeared to be aimed at keeping Beijing's cooperation.
Li assured Rice that Beijing would carry out its obligations, although he avoided the word sanctions and gave no specifics.
"China has an excellent track record in playing a constructive role in the international community and in honoring all of our commitments," he said.
Chinese moves to close off North Korean access to the global financial system appear to bear out Li's pledge.
Chinese banks have stopped financial transfers to North Korea under government orders as part of the sanctions, bank employees said Friday.
All four major Chinese state-owned banks and British-owned HSBC Corp. have stopped financial transfers to the North, according to bank employees in Beijing and the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang.
China is North Korea's main trading partner and aid donor, and has long been reluctant to use economic pressure against the North for fear the government of Kim Jong Il might collapse.
China has also been inspecting North Korean trucks at some points along the two nations' 880-mile border.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.