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China Voices Concern on N. Korea Artillery; Calls for Dialogue

China expressed “concern” over reports that North Korea fired artillery shells that struck South Korean territory and called for parties involved to work harder to promote peace and restart multinational talks.

“We have taken note of the relevant report and we express concern over the situation,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei told reporters in Beijing today. “We hope the relevant parties do more to contribute to peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.”

Hong said that officials are aware of claims by a U.S. scientist that North Korea had revealed to him a “stunning” new uranium-enrichment plant. The descriptions by the scientist underscore the need to restart six-nation talks on dismantling North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, Hong said.

“China unswervingly promotes denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula,” Hong said. “We have taken note of the relevant report. It is China’s consistent and firm position to realize denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula through dialogue and consultation. What is imperative now is to restart six-party talks.”

South Korea scrambled fighter jets and returned fire after North Korea lobbed dozens of shells into its territory, injuring four soldiers, Yonhap News reported today.

A South Korean Defense Ministry official, who declined to be identified, confirmed the shelling, without giving any further details. The military has been put on high alert and will “respond strongly” to further provocation, he said.

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