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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

China Opts Not to Press Pyongyang

BEIJING -- China on Monday dashed hopes that it would take a strong line on North Korea's nuclear program, telling South Korea's president the crisis could only be resolved through dialogue.

During more than two hours of talks, President Jiang Zemin told South Korean President Kim Young-sam that Beijing wanted a nuclear-free Korean peninsula for peace and stability.

"Based on this confirmation, both countries agreed to cooperate closely to resolve the nuclear question," said Kim's spokesman, Choo Don-shik.

Kim is visiting China to try to reduce rising tension over North Korea's nuclear program. Pyongyang is facing down most of the world in a row over inspection of nuclear facilities where the West believes it may be building a bomb.

While many have looked to Beijing to influence North Korea, Chinese officials have said the issue can only be solved if the United States, South Korea and the International Atomic Energy Agency talk to Pyongyang.

"The nuclear issue should be settled through patient and constructive talks between the parties directly concerned," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Shen Guofang told a briefing.

"We have made our due effort," he said. "However, China has only a limited role to play."

Shen said Beijing opposed anything that could complicate the issue, including U.S. plans to deploy anti-missile Patriot missiles in South Korea and the resumption of joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises.

China, one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Pyongyang's sole major ally, has said it opposes any moves by the council to pressure North Korea. The council, seeking to avoid a divisive vote on tougher measures to force Pyongyang to open nuclear sites, may issue a statement urging the North to be flexible.

North Korea's talks with the United States, South Korea and the IAEA have all broken down after it barred an IAEA team from taking samples at a key nuclear site earlier this month.