UN's Ban meets China's Xi for talks on North Korea, Syria

BEIJING (AFP) - Chinese president Xi Jinping and UN chief Ban Ki Moon on Wednesday discussed the Korean peninsula and Syria, state media reported, as Mr Ban's visit to Beijing was overshadowed by a deadly attack on a UN compound in Somalia.

Mr Ban, who arrived on Tuesday, met Mr Xi in Beijing's ornate Great Hall of the People after earlier visiting a centre which trains China's UN peacekeepers.

They exchanged views on Syria and the Korean peninsula during their talks, the China News Service reported.

Mr Xi described China's "principled positions" on the issues, the report said, without elaborating.

China's president also told Mr Ban that Beijing will increase efforts to promote the peaceful settlement of international disputes, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The meeting comes amid ongoing tensions on the peninsula over the North's nuclear programme and the worsening situation in Syria's civil war.

China, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, has come under increasing pressure to encourage North Korea to halt its nuclear development after the reclusive nation in February carried out its third underground nuclear test, which brought worldwide condemnation.

China, the North's sole ally, is seen as the country with the most influence on Pyongyang's actions.

While China has consistently called for Pyongyang's denuclearisation and has joined in UN sanctions against it, Beijing has also long helped prop up it up with aid and investment.

On Syria, China calls for resolving the conflict in a way acceptable to all parties, and has sided with Russia three times to veto Western-proposed UN Security Council resolutions that would increase pressure on President Bashar al-Assad.

Mr Ban, a former South Korean foreign minister, is also scheduled to hold talks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday.

His visit was interrupted by news of an attack by Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab insurgents on a UN compound in Mogadishu on Wednesday that killed at least eight people, excluding the attackers.

"The Secretary-General is aware of the attack against the United Nations in Somalia, and he is shocked by it," Martin Nesirky, his spokesman, said in an e-mail, adding that Mr Ban was "being updated regularly" on the situation.