China on Thursday reiterated its support for the resumption of six-party negotiations aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear drive, one day after the South's president said the talks should be revived.
The comments from South Korea's Lee Myung-Bak appeared to reflect a shift in position -- Lee has been tough with Pyongyang since the deadly shelling last month of a South Korean border island and cool on the idea of new negotiations.
China -- the host of the on-off talks which also include the two Koreas, Japan, Russia and the United States -- has meanwhile constantly pushed for the forum to reconvene since Pyongyang stormed out in April 2009.
"We believe the six-party talks are the effective approach to realise denuclearisation on the peninsula and safeguard regional peace and stability," foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters.
"We always believe that the South and the North should address issues and gradually improve relations through dialogue and consultation to realise reconciliation and cooperation," she said.
"Dialogue and negotiation is the only right approach to resolve peninsula-related issues and achieve enduring peace on the peninsula. We sincerely hope and support the two sides conduct good contact and dialogue."
On Wednesday, Lee said: "(We) have no choice but to resolve the problem of dismantling North Korea's nuclear programme diplomatically through the six-party talks."
Seoul, along with the United States and Japan, had said the North must first mend ties with the South and show sincerity about denuclearisation.
Lee said the international community was pressed for time because the North has set 2012 -- the centenary of the birth of founder Kim Il-Sung -- as the year to become a "great, powerful and prosperous" nation.
Because of this goal, we "must certainly achieve the dismantlement of its nuclear programme next year", Lee said.
Last month the North disclosed a uranium enrichment plant to visiting US experts. Pyongyang said Wednesday its new plant is designed solely to fuel a light-water reactor being built to produce energy.
According to US troubleshooter Bill Richardson, who visited Pyongyang this month, the North has offered to permit the return of UN nuclear inspectors -- something which China says it should do.
"We believe every country has the right to make peaceful use of nuclear power but meanwhile should respect international norms and accept relevant safeguards and inspections," Jiang said Thursday.