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Beijing, Seoul call for patience on North Korea

Reuters | September 10 2006

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and South Korean President Roh Myu-hoon agreed on Sunday it was "imperative" to restart six-party nuclear talks with isolated North Korea but called for patience, a spokeswoman for Roh said.

North Korea has faced growing pressure from Washington after it fired a volley of missiles in early July and then spurned calls to return to negotiations aimed at dismantling its nuclear weapons program.

But China and South Korea, both neighbors of North Korea, have favored using incentives and investment to lure the hardline fortress state back to the negotiating table.

Wen and Roh again backed this approach in a bilateral meeting in Helsinki on Sunday, ahead of a summit of Asian and European leaders, said Roh's spokeswoman.

"It is imperative to resume the six-party talks as soon as possible," the leaders agreed, according to a statement from the spokeswoman. "President Roh and Premier Wen shared an understanding that to fundamentally resolve the North Korean nuclear and missile issues, it is necessary to remain patient and to respond flexibly."

The United States, South Korea, China, Japan and Russia have been involved in talks with North Korea, but negotiations stalled in November after Pyongyang refused to return to the table, calling for an end to a U.S. crackdown on its finances.

Wen said: "China supports South Korea's engagement policy with North Korea," and both leaders called for "exchange and cooperation" to eliminate mistrust over the North, said the spokeswoman.

The Chinese premier also raised the prospect of Roh visiting Beijing, possibly in October, she said.

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