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China told the world yesterday to ease pressure on North Korea, which is being asked to accept international inspection of a nuclear program that regional and Western experts fear is aimed at making a bomb.A Japanese government spokesman said Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen told his Japanese counterpart, Michio Watanabe: "It is not good for many nations to pressure one country into a corner." Mr. Qian and Mr. Watanabe met privately in the South Korean capital, where both are leading delegations to the ministerial meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), a loosely knit coalition of 15 Pacific Rim economies. The first of two APEC sessions opened yesterday on economic cooperation and future programs, but bilateral meetings and issues between the member states and North Korea's nuclear research overshadowed the formal agenda. Pyongyang has denied it is making a nuclear weapon, but it has just as resolutely refused to allow inspection of its nuclear facilities. Earlier yesterday, United States Secretary of State James Baker III reiterated to South Korean Foreign Minister Lee Sang-ock that he considered the North Korean nuclear program "the No. 1 security issue in Asia." The US, Japan, and South Korea have been coordinating diplomacy on the North Korean nuclear program and have striven to enlist other nations, including China and the Soviet Union, in the effort. Mr. Lee opened the first plenary session yesterday morning with a warning that regional protectionism was endangering world free trade.

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