BEIJING -- China rejected using sanctions to prod North Korea to return to six-nation talks on its nuclear ambitions, with a spokesman saying Beijing's political and trade relations with its neighbor should be kept separate.
The statement from China's foreign ministry spokesman, Liu Jianchao, came as a Bush administration official said the United States has asked China to redouble its efforts to lure North Korea back to negotiations.
''We stand for resolving the issue through dialogue. We are not in favor of exerting pressure or imposing sanctions," Liu said at a regular briefing. ''We believe that such measures are not necessarily effective."
Chinese officials said a cutoff would damage the oil pipeline that links China's northeast with North Korea due to the oil's high paraffin content, which can clog pipelines, the Post reported.
The US appeal, disclosed by a State Department official yesterday on condition of anonymity, reflects a growing frustration over North Korea's refusal to reopen six-nation talks for nearly a year and rhetoric from Pyongyang that administration officials consider alarming.
China, the North's last major ally, is believed to supply the isolated communist country with up to one-third of its food and one-quarter of its energy.
North Korea accused the United States yesterday of ''making a fuss" by notifying allies of the communist nation's possible preparations for a nuclear test, and maintained it would stay away from international disarmament talks. The North didn't confirm or deny it was planning such a test.
Discussions involving the two Koreas, United States, China, Japan, and Russia have been stalled since last June after three inconclusive rounds. North Korea refused to participate in the fourth set of talks, originally scheduled for September 2004.
The situation became more urgent last week, when US officials said spy satellites showed possible preparations for North Korea's first nuclear weapons test. That included digging and refilling a large hole at a suspected test site.
When asked whether China believed Pyongyang was preparing for a test, Liu, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, would not answer. He said he did not have any ''confirmation of relevant reports."