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China premier calls for return to talks on Korean nukes

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang speaks at a press conference after the closing session of the National People's Congress held in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Wednesday, March 15, 2017.

NG HAN GUAN/AP

By ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: March 15, 2017

BEIJING — Chinese Premier Li Keqiang called Wednesday for all parties to return to talks amid rising tensions over North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile programs.

Li said China was a strong supporter of U.N. Nations resolutions aimed at nudging the North toward ending its programs, and had "fully complied" with economic sanctions on Pyongyang.

He acknowledged the rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula and northeast Asia in general, saying any conflict would be disastrous for all sides.

"So what we hope is that all the parties concerned will work together to deescalate the situation, get issues back on the track of dialogue and work together to find proper solutions," Li said at his annual news conference held on the final day of the annual legislative session.

China is Pyongyang's most important diplomatic ally and economic partner, and has been under pressure from the U.S. to use its influence to rein in actions by the North seen as provocative.

China followed the latest round of missile launches by the North last month by suspending imports of North Korean coal, depriving Kim Jong Un's regime of a crucial source of foreign currency.

China has long urged a resumption of six-nation denuclearization talks on hold since North Korea withdrew from them in 2009.

Hoping to kick-start discussions, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi last week suggested that North Korea might suspend its nuclear and missile activities in exchange for a halt in joint U.S.-South Korea military drills.

The U.S. swiftly dismissed the proposal and Li did not repeat it.

However, the premier did indicate that China was growing weary of the constant tensions and threats of conflict surrounding its formerly close communist neighbor.

"It's just common sense that no one wants to see chaos on his doorstep," he said.

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