China calls for talks after N Korea nuclear claims

China has called for restarting the six-nation talks to end N Korea`s atomic ambitions.

Beijing: China Tuesday said it was "imperative" the six-nation talks to end North Korea`s atomic ambitions be restarted, amid alarm over Pyongyang`s latest nuclear claims and artillery fired at South Korea.

"What`s imperative now is to restart six-party talks as
soon as possible," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told
reporters when asked to comment on North Korea`s claims it has
an operational uranium enrichment programme.

He spoke as a US special envoy headed to China to seek
its help in curbing North Korea`s new nuclear project, and
shortly after North Korea fired dozens of artillery shells
onto a South Korean island, killing at least one soldier.

The shelling triggered an exchange of fire and the
South`s armed forces went on their highest state of alert.

"It is China`s consistent and firm position to realise
de-nuclearisation on the (Korean) peninsula through dialogue
and consultation," Hong said.

"We hope parties make joint efforts to create conditions
for the resumption of six-party talks," he added, repeating a
call China makes routinely in the effort to dismantle North
Korea`s nuclear programme.

The North recently disclosed to visiting US experts an
apparently operational uranium enrichment programme -- a
second potential way of building a nuclear bomb.

The North shut down its ageing gas graphite reactor in
2008 under a six-nation deal, after stockpiling enough
weapons-grade plutonium for possibly six to eight small bombs.

The long-running six-nation negotiation process hosted by
Beijing also includes the United States, the two Koreas,
Russia, and Japan.

North Korea abandoned the forum in April 2009, a month
before its second nuclear test, and announced in September
last year it had reached the final stage of enriching uranium.
The North, showing off its centrifuges to US experts this
month, said the operation would fuel a civilian
electricity-generating project.

But scientists said they could be configured to create
weapons-grade uranium, and top US defence officials said that
is the real intention.


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