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North Korea says consensus with China on nuclear talks

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea said it has reached a consensus with China concerning the resumption of international talks on ending its nuclear arms program, the North’s official news agency reported.

North Korean soldiers look south through pairs of binoculars on the north side of the truce village of Panmunjom in the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas in Paju, north of Seoul, August 11, 2010. REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak

China, the North’s sole key ally, has urged regional powers to put the March sinking of a South Korean warship behind them and return to the negotiating table to end a cycle of confrontation that has raised tension to new heights.

Seoul and Washington say a North Korean submarine torpedoed the Cheonan corvette, killing 46 sailors. Pyongyang denies any role.

Six-way nuclear talks involving the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, Russia and China have been in limbo since 2008.

Chinese state media said a delegation led by Beijing’s chief nuclear envoy Wu Dawei visited Pyongyang earlier this week for talks on security issues and the six-party talks process.

The North’s official KCNA news agency said the two sides had held “in-depth discussions on the regional situation and the bilateral relations of friendship and matters of mutual concern including the resumption of the six-party talks and the denuclearization of the whole Korean Peninsula.”

“They reached a full consensus of views on all the matters discussed,” it reported late on Thursday.

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China, which had been the host of the six-way talks that began in 2003, has urged regional powers to “flip the page of the Cheonan incident” and quickly resume negotiations.

Last month, after the U.N. Security Council statement did not directly blame it for the sinking of a South Korean warship, apparently in deference to Beijing, Pyongyang said it was willing to return to the talks.

South Korea and the United States have said the North must first admit responsibility for the Cheonan incident before they would consider the resumption of the six-way forum.

North Korea has consistently sought talks with Washington, claiming the status of a legitimate nuclear power, and has also demanded new negotiations to replace the armistice ending the 1950-53 Korean War with a permanent peace treaty.

South Korea and the United States have rejected the idea of peace talks, saying the dismantling of the North’s nuclear program in an irreversible manner must come first.

Editing by Jonathan Thatcher