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China Urges United States, North Korea to Be More Flexible in Resolving Nuclear Dispute

China is calling on the United States and North Korea to show more flexibility in efforts to resolve the North Korean nuclear dispute. The comments follow reports that North Korea is backing away from early statements that it would not take part in disarmament talks.

Beijing's latest statements follow a four-day visit to Pyongyang by Chinese officials who worked to convince North Korea to return to nuclear negotiations hosted by China.

Arriving back in Beijing Tuesday, China's ambassador for Korean Affairs, Ning Fukui, said no date was agreed for the resumption of talks.

"The Korean peninsula's nuclear problem certainly [remains] very complicated," he said.

Mr. Ning accompanied Wang Jiarui, the head of the Chinese Communist party's international relations office, to Pyongyang where they met with officials, including North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

Mr. Kim told the Chinese officials that his country would return to the talks when conditions were right and the United States abandoned what the North says is a "hostile" policy toward Pyongyang. Nearly two weeks ago, North Korea said it would suspend participation in the negotiations.

North Korea demands a security guarantee from the United States before it will freeze its nuclear weapons programs. Washington has said it will not reward North Korea for merely complying with its commitments to be nuclear-free.

At a regular briefing Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan urged all parties to the talks, especially the United States, to consider the North Korean demands seriously.

Mr. Kong says China hopes that all sides, especially those directly concerned, will seriously consider the proposals. He says all sides should show flexibility and make active and constructive efforts to restart the six-party talks.

The dispute flared in 2002 when the United States said North Korea had admitted to having a secret nuclear weapons program, despite previous international pledges to remain nuclear free. Pyongyang has since said it has built nuclear weapons and will build more.

China has arranged three unsuccessful rounds of nuclear talks with North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Russia and the United States.

U.S. officials say they are ready to resume talks without conditions. They have called on North Korea to return to the table, saying the six-party mechanism is the best opportunity the North has to settle the nuclear dispute and end its international isolation.

Last week, the United States urged China to use its influence to press North Korea to return to the negotiating table.