Russian envoy to 6-party talks on North Korea in Pyongyang

Russia's envoy to the six-party talks on the North Korean nuclear program is in Pyongyang for consultations, the Foreign Ministry spokesman said Friday, confirming the first known high-level visit to North Korea since its claimed nuclear test earlier this week.

As diplomacy gathered speed, a senior Chinese envoy met with Russia's Security Council chief a day after talks with U.S. President George W. Bush, and was to meet Saturday with Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, Russian news agencies reported.

Citing an unidentified Defense Ministry official, ITAR-Tass reported that Ivanov was expected to inform Chinese State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan that Russia detected a nuclear explosion in North Korea on Monday with the force of about 10 kilotons reiterating Moscow's insistence that Pyongyang's claimed test was nuclear, as well as its relatively high estimate of the explosion's might.

Ivanov had said Monday that Russia had "no doubt" the blast was nuclear, and estimated its force at 5 to 15 kilotons.

Defense Ministry officials could not immediately be reached for comment. According to ITAR-Tass, China asked for the meeting with Ivanov, who is also a deputy prime minister.

Tang met Friday with Igor Ivanov, secretary of Russia's presidential Security Council, ITAR-Tass and RIA-Novosti reported. Comments they reported from the meeting referred exclusively to bilateral relations and made no mention of North Korea. Security Council officials also could not immediately be reached.

After Tang met with Bush on Thursday, deputy U.S. national security adviser J.D. Crouch noted the "possibility for differences" between China and the United States on efforts to confront North Korea over the test.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin told The Associated Press that it was unclear where Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Alexeyev would go after his talks in the North Korean capital. He offered no further details.

Alexeyev's visit comes amid a flurry of diplomatic visits focusing on possible sanctions against North Korea for its claimed nuclear test. The United States has proposed a draft U.N. resolution to authorize nonmilitary penalties.

In Seoul, a South Korean official said Alexeyev would be in the South Korean capital for meetings Sunday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting had not yet been officially announced.

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