China made clear that the talks would not amount to a resumption of six-party disarmament discussions which North Korea walked out of two years ago and declared dead. South Korea said it would carefully consider China's suggestion.
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China, which agreed with South Korea that the situation was "worrisome," suggested the emergency talks for December among North and South Korea, host China, the United States, Japan and Russia. It did not say whether Pyongyang had agreed to join.
Japan was non-committal. "We want to respond cautiously while cooperating closely with South Korea and the United States," Kyodo news agency quoted Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Tetsuro Fukuyama as saying.
Beijing has longstanding bonds with Pyongyang, and has sought to shield its small, poor neighbor from a backlash that China fears could draw an even more ferocious reaction from North Korea and dangerously destabilize the region.
Critics in Washington and other capitals say China's approach amounts to coddling a dangerous nuclear-armed state.