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Powell Seeks China’s Support Over North Korea, Iraq

Powell met with outgoing Chinese President Jiang Zemin and Vice President Hu Jintao, widely considered Jiang’s successor, in hopes of gaining critical Chinese support for U.S. positions on North Korea and Iraq.

He described the meetings as “excellent,” adding that U.S. “relations with China have really moved to a new dimension.”

Powell said he and Hu discussed the North Korean nuclear crisis and their “shared goal of a nuclear weapons-free Korean Peninsula.”

Powell praised China’s “consistent message to the North Koreans that China joins the rest of the world community in expecting Pyongyang to comply with its obligations and its own promises with respect to nuclear weapons.”

Hu told Powell that Beijing believed the United States and North Korea should hold bilateral talks to resolve the nuclear crisis, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

“China hopes the United States and [North Korea] will conduct direct dialogues as soon as possible,” Xinhua agency quoted Hu as saying. Powell and other Bush administration officials have resisted holding direct talks with North Korea, favoring a multilateral approach to resolve the crisis.

Powell on Monday reaffirmed this position, saying the situation “cannot simply be treated … as a bilateral matter between the United States and North Korea.”

“The Unites States feels strongly that North Korea’s actions pose a threat to regional stability and to the global non-proliferation regime,” Powell told reporters. “[W]e are prepared to address these issues with North Korea in a multilateral context in which China and other nations can participate.”

Powell said he also discussed the confrontation with Iraq with Hu and Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan, presenting the U.S. case for military action to force Baghdad to rid itself of weapons of mass destruction.

“I made it clear to Foreign Minister Tang what our point of view was,” Powell said, stressing the need for the U.N. Security Council to “take action in the near future” to force Iraq to comply with international calls to disarm.

Powell said he talked with the Chinese foreign minister about a draft resolution on Iraq that the U.S. and Britain are expected to submit to the U.N. Security Council Monday, but acknowledged it would have been “inappropriate” to “press” the foreign minister for an immediate decision on it.

China, as a member of the U.N. Security Council, has sided with fellow permanent member France in calling for more time for U.N. weapons inspections to avoid a war.

Powell later traveled to Seoul, South Korea where he is scheduled to attend Tuesday’s inauguration of President-elect Roh Moo-hyun. Earlier Monday, outgoing South Korean President Kim Dae-jung in his last speech as president called for direct U.S.-North Korean talks.

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