SKorea, China worry over NKorea's nuclear program

The foreign ministers of South Korea and China expressed worries Wednesday about North Korea's recently disclosed uranium enrichment program, which could give it a second way to make atomic bombs, a South Korean official said.

The foreign ministers agreed to consult closely on how to deal with the North's uranium program, a South Korean Foreign Ministry official said on condition of anonymity because of department policy.

Efforts to deal with North Korea's nuclear capability took on renewed urgency in November when a visiting American scientist was shown a uranium enrichment facility. South Korea says that violates a past international disarmament-for-aid deal and U.N. resolutions.

North Korea is already believed to have enough weaponized plutonium for at least a half dozen atomic bombs.

China — host of stalled six-nation North Korean nuclear disarmament talks — is officially opposed to the North's nuclear drive. But it remains to be seen whether China, which is North Korea's only major ally, will allow the United Nations to criticize the North's uranium enrichment efforts.

South Korean media have reported that China is blocking a U.N. Security Council committee from issuing a report saying the North's uranium program violates U.N. resolutions. The committee was to meet later Wednesday in New York.

The Chinese and South Korean foreign ministers also agreed in principle to create an environment for resuming the six-nation talks, which seek North Korea's nuclear disarmament in exchange for economic assistance and other benefits, the official said. China wants an early resumption of the negotiations, the official said.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi began a two-day visit to South Korea on Wednesday aimed at easing animosity between the Koreas. In a meeting with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, he said Beijing hopes for improved ties between the Koreas and reiterated China's opposition to the North's nuclear program, Lee's office said in a statement.

Lee asked China to play a constructive role in efforts to end North Korea's nuclear program, it said.

Relations between North and South Korea have plunged to one of the lowest levels in decades due to two deadly incidents last year — the sinking of a South Korean naval ship in March, and a North Korean artillery barrage in November on a front-line South Korean island. Fifty South Koreans were killed.