Rice Confident China Is Serious About N. Korea

After a day of meetings with China's leaders, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says she is optimistic that China will vigorously implement sanctions against North Korea that were brought in response to its nuclear test.

After meeting with President Hu Jintao and other top leaders, Secretary Rice said that her hosts had apparently reevaluated their relations and decided to take a firmer stand with North Korea. Rice said that China has been scrupulous in inspecting cargo shipments over its land border with North Korea.

The World Food Program says China has significantly cut its food aid to North Korea in the past year. Friday, branches of the Bank of China and the China Industrial and Commercial Bank in the border city of Dandong told NPR that they had suspended all financial transactions between North Korea and China since the nuclear test.

China provides the vast majority of North Korea's fuel oil, and analysts believe China could turn that tap off too if North Korea continues to ignore China's advice. Beijing wants to avoid a public falling out with its old ally, analysts add, so it hasn't publicized any of the pressure it has likely applied.

Rice also spoke to Chinese State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan, who met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il in Pyongyang Thursday. Rice said Tang delivered a strong message to Kim about the seriousness of the nuclear test.

But she gave no indication that North Korea had decided to return to the stalled six-party negotiations that it has boycotted for the past year.

Secretary Rice travels to Moscow Saturday for the final leg of her journey in support of the U.N. sanctions against North Korea.

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