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N. Korean chief nuclear envoy arrives in China

North Korea's chief nuclear envoy arrived in China on Saturday for talks with his South Korean and Chinese counterparts on how to restart long-stalled negotiations on ending Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programs.

Vice Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho headed to Beijing's downtown area without making any comment to reporters upon arriving at an airport earlier in the day.

Ri is scheduled to hold talks with South Korean chief nuclear envoy Wi Sung-lac around Wednesday, the second meeting in as many months.

It was not immediately clear when the North Korean envoy would meet with his Chinese counterpart.

Ri met with Wi on the sidelines of a regional security conference in Indonesia in July, paving the way for rare high-level talks between North Korea and the U.S. in New York later that month.

In Washington, State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner told reporters Friday that the United States welcomes further dialogue between North Korea and South Korea.

Ri's trip comes amid diplomatic efforts to resume the six-nation disarmament talks and lingering tensions on the Korean Peninsula over the North's two deadly attacks on the South last year.

Ri is also scheduled to attend a seminar marking the sixth anniversary of a nuclear deal reached at the six-nation talks in 2005.

Under the deal, the North agreed to abandon its nuclear programs in return for political and economic incentives, but it conducted two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

The North also quit the nuclear talks in 2009, but it has since repeatedly expressed its desire to return to the negotiating table that involves South Korea, the United States, China, Russia and Japan.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, during a rare summit last month with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, also called for a quick resumption of the nuclear talks without any preconditions.

South Korea and the U.S. said the North must demonstrate its seriousness about denuclearizing before the six-nation talks can take place. 
(Yonhap News)

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