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North Korea Says 'No More' Nuclear Tests Unless Provoked

China says North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has told Beijing officials he is not planning to conduct another nuclear test, unless international pressure provokes Pyongyang to change its course.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Liu Jianchao, today (Tuesday) also denied recent news reports that Mr. Kim apologized to a visiting Chinese envoy last week for the international uproar caused by his country's nuclear test.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who met with the envoy (Tang Jiaxuan) in Beijing following his visit to Pyongyang, earlier cast doubt on the reports of Mr. Kim's apology and his pledge not to conduct another test.

North Korea's neighbors have been on high alert since Pyongyang's nuclear weapons test October ninth, and world leaders have been working strenuously to lure North Korea back to disarmament talks.

Earlier today, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso rejected North Korea's long-standing demand that U.S. sanctions against Pyongyang must end if the communist state is to return to the six-party talks.

Aso says Pyongyang should return to nuclear negotiations without preconditions, because those talks are entirely separate from the United States' order last year freezing North Korean government bank accounts.

The nuclear talks, stalled since November, include North and South Korea, the United States, China, Japan and Russia.

Pyongyang says it will re-enter the negotiations if Washington drops its financial penalties, which have frozen North Korean funds held by a bank in Macau. The U.S. action was a response to what American authorities say is Pyongyang's involvement in producing and circulating counterfeit U.S. currency, and for alleged money-laundering activities.