A South Korean envoy arrived in China on Wednesday to urge North Korea's chief ally to put more pressure on the reclusive communist state to stop its nuclear weapons program.
Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Tae Shik, taking part in a flurry of diplomacy aimed at warding off a crisis over North Korea, flew to Beijing and pledged to work for a peaceful settlement.
But North Korea kept the rhetorical fires burning, calling on its people to build "a powerful nation" under its "army-based policy" and urging South Koreans to join in resisting the U.S.
Lee, who was scheduled to meet Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi, said 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, which has given impoverished North Korea substantial economic aid, to play a more active role in ending the standoff.
North Korea, accused by the U.S. of developing nuclear arms, has started reactivating a complex capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium and has expelled U.N. inspectors who were monitoring the facility. The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency said its board of governors would receive a report on the issue Monday. Pyongyang is demanding direct talks with Washington and a non-aggression pact to defuse the crisis. Washington has rejected the idea, saying it will not reward bad behavior.
In South Korea, outgoing President Kim Dae Jung spoke of an opportunity to sow the seeds of a peace that eluded the peninsula after the Korean War.
"We can help resolve the North Korean nuclear problem and make peace take root on the Korean peninsula," he said.
North Korea's official Workers Daily newspaper, alluding to the recent upsurge in South Korean protests against the 37,000 U.S. troops stationed in the South, urged North and South Koreans in a New Year's editorial to resist "the reckless and vicious war moves of the U.S. imperialists ... and deal a telling blow at them."