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US Secretary of State in China for Talks on North Korea  - 2004-10-24

Secretary of State Colin Powell is in China as part of a three-nation Asian tour to try to restart multi-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program.

Secretary of State Colin Powell is in Beijing for a 24-hour visit that includes meetings with President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, with North Korea as the main topic.

The secretary is visiting Japan, China and South Korea hoping to restart multi-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program.

The talks, which also include Russia, failed to resume as planned last month. North Korea refused to attend, after recent revelations showed South Korean scientists had conducted secret nuclear experiments years ago. North Korea says it wants an investigation of the experiments before re-joining the talks.

Analysts say North Korea has indicated it is waiting to see the outcome of the U.S. presidential election next month before it agrees to a new round of talks.

Ralph Cossa of the Pacific Forum, a U.S. research organization, says Secretary Powell wants to keep momentum going among the participants in the discussions, which Mr. Cossa says will likely resume shortly after the U.S. election.

"I think Powell wants to, first of all, reinforce the impression that it is North Korea that is creating the problem, and not the U.S. This is very important for alliance maintenance," he said.

In Japan, Mr. Powell said the United States is in close contact with its partners in the negotiations. He said he hopes they can change their stances to allow faster progress.

During the last round of negotiations in June, the United States proposed allowing other nations to provide much-needed energy aid to North Korea in exchange for a freeze of its nuclear programs. Ultimately, the United States wants Pyongyang to show that it has stopped its nuclear weapons program in a complete and verifiable way.

In remarks after meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in Tokyo, Mr. Powell said it is a matter of urgency that North Korea return to the talks. He urged Pyongyang to set aside its fears that the United States wants to attack North Korea, saying President Bush wants a peaceful solution to the crisis.

Mr. Powell is scheduled to go to South Korea on Monday.