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S. Korea puts pressure on North

Beijing, Jan. 1 (Reuters): An envoy from South Korea arrived in China today to urge North Korea's chief ally to put more pressure on the reclusive Communist state to stop its nuclear weapons programme.

Deputy foreign minister Lee Tae-shik flew into Beijing — after US President George W. Bush said Washington and Pyongyang were engaged in “a diplomatic showdown... not a military showdown” — and pledged to work for a peaceful settlement to the dispute.

But North Korea kept the rhetorical fires burning today, calling on its people to build “a powerful nation” under its “army-based policy” and urging South Koreans to join in resisting the US.

The South Korean envoy’s visit is part of a flurry of diplomacy aimed at warding off a crisis over North Korea, which Bush has designated part of an “axis of evil” along with Iraq and Iran.

Lee, who is scheduled to meet Chinese vice-foreign minister Wang Yi tomorrow, told Reuters television he planned “to exchange our views with Chinese officials on how to find a constructive way out of this nuclear stalemate”. Diplomats said Lee was expected to urge communist China to play a more active role in ending the standoff.

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