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China, S. Korea Cooperate to Ease N. Korea Nuclear Stand

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THE death of his elder brother in the Korean War four decades ago is still an aching memory for Suk-young Jin.

But that hasn't stopped the Seoul businessman from joining an investment surge in this coastal Shandong port town, which is part of budding new economic and political ties between South Korea and China.

"The bad-feelings generation has almost disappeared," he said in an interview at his new Chinese factory, which makes quartz crystal components for electronics. "There are still cold war feelings between the South and the North. But, while China may stand for North Korea, China does not stand against South Korea either."

As Beijing and Seoul build an economic bridge across the Yellow Sea, the one-time adversaries also grope for new political links in Asia's shifting regional landscape.

For the first time, China and South Korea, which restored diplomatic relations last September, appear to be pursuing parallel paths in efforts to force North Korea to back down from its hard-line defiance over its nuclear program.

While the United States and other Western countries call for United Nations sanctions against Pyongyang for announcing in March that it would withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Beijing and Seoul want a more measured approach: South Korea because it fears provoking a military strike by the isolated North, China because it risks angering the West by vetoing UN sanctions or bringing down communist North Korea economically if it abstains and sanctions proceed.

Following a meeting between Chinese and South Korean foreign ministers last month, the US and North Korea are reportedly planning talks in Beijing this week. Although US officials refuse to confirm the meeting, a Western diplomat said Wednesday that both the US and China want "to see the same outcome" and defuse the situation.

Still, even as the US and South Korea turn to China to intervene, Beijing's influence in Pyongyang is waning, diplomats say. Pyongyang's friendship with Moscow aggravated links with China, and China's embrace of market-style economic reforms, and moves toward the West have triggered new mistrust in North Korea. Recent reports indicate there have been firing incidents between troops along the North Korean and Chinese border.

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