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N. Korean Leader: I Regret Nuke Test

AP | October 20 2006

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il expressed regret about his country's nuclear test to a Chinese delegation and said Pyongyang would return to international nuclear talks if Washington backs off a campaign to financially isolate the country, a South Korean newspaper reported Friday.

"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 telling a Chinese envoy, the mass-circulation Chosun Ilbo reported, citing a diplomatic source in China.

Kim told the Chinese delegation that "he is sorry about the nuclear test," the newspaper reported.

The delegation led by State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan met Kim on Thursday and returned to Beijing later that day — ahead of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's arrival in the Chinese capital Friday. China is viewed as a key nation in efforts to persuade the North to disarm, as it is the isolated communist nation's main trading partner.

North Korea has long insisted that the U.S. desist from a campaign to sever its ties to the international financial system. Washington accuses Pyongyang of complicity in counterfeiting and money laundering to sell weapons of mass destruction.

The North has refused since last November to return to the nuclear talks, which also include China, Japan, Russia and South Korea. Pyongyang has sought bolster its negotiating position by a series of provocative actions, test-firing a barrage of missiles in July and performing its first-ever nuclear test Oct. 9.

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