UN's Ban meets China's Xi for talks on N. Korea, Syria

Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) is pictured about to shake hands with the UN delegations as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon waves to Chinese officials during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, June 19, 2013. REUTERS/Andy Wong/Pool

BEIJING: Chinese president Xi Jinping and UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday discussed the Korean peninsula and Syria, state media reported, as Ban's visit to Beijing was overshadowed by a deadly attack on a UN compound in Somalia.

Ban, who arrived Tuesday, met Xi in Beijing's ornate Great Hall of the People after earlier visiting a centre which trains China's UN peacekeepers.

They exchanged views on Syria and the Korean peninsula during their talks, the China News Service reported.

Xi described China's "principled positions" on the issues, the report said, without elaborating.

China's president also told Ban that Beijing will increase efforts to promote the peaceful settlement of international disputes, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The meeting comes amid ongoing tensions on the peninsula over the North's nuclear programme and the worsening situation in Syria's civil war.

China, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, has come under increasing pressure to encourage North Korea to halt its nuclear development after the reclusive nation in February carried out its third underground nuclear test, which brought worldwide condemnation.

China, the North's sole ally, is seen as the country with the most influence on Pyongyang's actions.

While China has consistently called for Pyongyang's denuclearisation and has joined in UN sanctions against it, Beijing has also long helped prop up it up with aid and investment.

On Syria, China calls for resolving the conflict in a way acceptable to all parties, and has sided with Russia three times to veto Western-proposed UN Security Council resolutions that would increase pressure on President Bashar al-Assad.

Ban, a former South Korean foreign minister, is also scheduled to hold talks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday.

His visit was interrupted by news of an attack by Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab insurgents on a UN compound in Mogadishu on Wednesday that killed at least eight people, excluding the attackers.

"The Secretary-General is aware of the attack against the United Nations in Somalia, and he is shocked by it," Martin Nesirky, his spokesman, said in an e-mail, adding that Ban was "being updated regularly" on the situation.

Ban's visit came as a high-ranking North Korean official with long experience as his country's international nuclear negotiator held talks with Chinese officials.

North Korean first vice foreign minister Kim Kye-Gwan and Chinese vice foreign minister Zhang Yesui co-chaired a "strategic dialogue" meeting between their ministries in the Chinese capital, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

"The two sides exchanged views on China-DPRK relations and the situation on the Korean peninsula," she told a regular briefing, referring to North Korea by the acronym of its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Kim also met Wu Dawei, China's special envoy for Korean peninsula affairs, Hua said.

The meeting follows one last month between Xi and North Korean special envoy Choe Ryong-Hae, a close confidant of the North's leader Kim Jong-Un.

Tensions over the nuclear programme have waned somewhat in recent months amid expectations North Korea may be moving towards dialogue rather than confrontation.

But Pyongyang unexpectedly cancelled much-anticipated talks with the South last week, casting some doubt on its intentions.

Kim Kye-Gwan has been a key figure in international negotiations aimed at persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear programme in exchange for aid and security guarantees.

The so-called six party talks, which began in 2003 but have been dormant since late 2008, also include South Korea, Japan, Russia, China and the United States.

South Korea's President Park Geun-Hye is due to make her first visit to China later this month.





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