SEOUL – China does not back efforts by Washington and Seoul to punish North Korea at the United Nations for its uranium enrichment programme and wants six-party talks to deal with the issue, a top South Korean envoy said on Saturday.

International disagreement over how to deal with the North's growing nuclear capability comes just days after inter-Korean talks collapsed, as diplomatic efforts to defuse simmering tensions on the divided peninsula faltered.

The six-party talks, which offer Pyongyang aid and diplomatic recognition in return for disabling its nuclear weapons programme, were last held two years ago. They collapsed when the North quit in protest against U.N. sanctions for its nuclear and missile tests.

The six-way talks started in 2003 and are chaired by China, and also involve the United States, Japan and Russia.

"Both sides were concerned about it (the North's uranium enrichment programme) and will work closely," the South's nuclear envoy Wi Sung-lac told Reuters after a two-day visit to Beijing to discuss the issue with his Chinese counterpart.

But Wi said China disagreed that the United Nations should be involved, and said the six-sided forum should deal with it.

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