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Inter-Korean dialogue still needed ahead of nuclear talks: China

July 21, 2011 - 19:26 By 천성우
BALI (Yonhap News) ― The foreign ministers of South Korea and China reaffirmed their joint stance that improvement in inter-Korean relations is a prerequisite to moving toward reopening multinational talks on North Korea’s nuclear program, officials said Thursday.
South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan (left) shakes hands with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi ahead of their meeting on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting in Bali, Thursday. (Yonhap News)

The South Korean foreign minister held talks for about 40 minutes with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi on the sidelines of an ASEAN meeting on this Indonesian resort island of Bali.

“During the talks, the Chinese minister expressed his support for the principle that an inter-Korean dialogue on a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula should be prioritized before the resumption of the six-party talks,” said Seoul’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Byung-jae.

“The two sides also agreed to continue to cooperate with each other in their efforts toward a dialogue with North Korea,” Cho said after the talks.

The spokesman said Yang also plans to hold a bilateral meeting with North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun on Friday.

Multilateral negotiations on ending North Korea’s nuclear program have been stalled since late 2008. The talks group the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia. South Korea, the U.S. and other regional powers are pushing to reopen the six-party talks in a three-step approach in which North Korea will meet with South Korea first and then the U.S. for one-on-one talks on denuclearization before resuming the multilateral process.

During this week’s ASEAN Regional Forum, Kim said he is seeking to hold an informal meeting with his North Korean counterpart Pak, who is scheduled to arrive in Bali later Thursday to attend the annual forum.

Asked how Pyongyang would respond to a proposal for an informal meeting, a North Korean delegate in Bali sidestepped the question. “We will announce our stance on Saturday,” the North Korean delegate told reporters, asking not to be named and referring to the date of the ARF meeting.