Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Chinese Leader Aims to Console Seoul on N. Korea-US Pact

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Chinese Leader Aims to Console Seoul on N. Korea-US Pact

Article excerpt

CHINESE Premier Li Peng begins a visit to South Korea today to reassure Seoul's wary leadership on the results of the US-North Korea nuclear pact signed Oct. 21. He also intends to discuss China's future plans to import South Korean reactors similar to ones promised to North Korea.

During his five-day trip, the highest-ranking Chinese visit since normalization between Beijing and Seoul two years ago, Mr. Li is expected to sign an agreement allowing South Korea to bid on nuclear-power construction projects in China and opening the door for imports of South Korean nuclear plants in the future, according to Chinese and South Korean officials here.

Li will also try to assuage South Korean doubts about the US-North Korean accord in which Seoul is poised to play the key role of providing safe nuclear reactors to North Korea, a longtime Chinese ally. Under the accord, a consortium including the United States, Japan, and South Korea, will provide two light-water nuclear reactors to the North in exchange for Pyongyang freezing its alleged weapons program and opening its facilities to international inspection.

South Korea is uneasy and skeptical about the agreement that allows the North to postpone inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency during the five-year construction period of the new reactors.

On the other hand, China, a reluctant and uncomfortable mediator in the nuclear standoff with Pyongyang, has applauded the agreement that eases international pressure on Beijing to intervene with its volatile North Korean allies and in effect grants the North the Western recognition long sought by Beijing.

Throughout the nuclear crisis between Washington and Pyongyang, China insisted on a negotiated solution because it does not want North Korea to become a nuclear power, nor does it want international pressure to destabilize its Communist neighbor. …

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