Beijing says China's top nuclear envoy made trip to NKorea, discussed six-party nuclear talks

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — China's top nuclear envoy traveled to North Korea this week to discuss the resumption of six party talks on the North's nuclear weapons program, Beijing said.

North Korea walked away from six-nation nuclear talks last year in protest at an international condemnation of a long-range rocket launch. Prospects for restarting the talks were put into doubt after an international investigation in May blamed North Korea for torpedoing the South Korean warship Cheonan and killing 46 sailors. North Korea denies attacking the ship.

On Thursday, China's Foreign Ministry said that its chief nuclear envoy, Wu Dawei, visited North Korea from Monday to Wednesday to discuss resuming the nuclear talks.

Wu met senior North Korean officials including Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun and top nuclear envoy Kim Kye Gwan. They discussed maintaining peace and stability on the peninsula and resuming the six-party talks, the ministry said in a statement.

"They reached a full consensus of views on all the matters discussed," the North's official Korean Central News Agency reported late Thursday. Neither China's Foreign Ministry nor KCNA gave any further details.

The trip came ahead of a new round of joint military drills that South Korea and the U.S. plan to stage in the Yellow Sea early next month.

This week, South Korea and the U.S. began annual joint military drills that North Korea has called a rehearsal for invasion. That followed massive joint naval drills the allies conducted last month.

The Korean peninsula technically remains in a state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. The U.S. stations 28,500 troops in South Korea to protect its key ally.

It wasn't clear whether Wu's trip would help lead to the restart of the nuclear talks, as U.S., South Korean and Japanese officials have said Pyongyang must come clean on the warship sinking and express a sincere willingness to disarm before the talks can resume.

In Washington on Thursday, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters that "there are specific things that North Korea can do to demonstrate a seriousness of purpose and to create an environment where future (nuclear disarmament) talks could be productive."

On Friday, South Korea's Red Cross sent a message to its North Korea's counterpart calling for the release of a South Korean fishing boat and its crew, according to the Unification Ministry in Seoul.

The request came a day after North Korea confirmed that it seized the boat and four South Korean and three Chinese fishermen on Aug. 8 for illegal fishing in the North's eastern exclusive economic zone.


Associated Press writers Sangwon Yoon in Seoul and Chi-Chi Zhang in Beijing and Foster Klug in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.