Tags: KIm.Korea | talks | nukes

NKorea's Kim Says Ready for Nuke Talks

Thursday, 06 May 2010 09:56 AM EDT

BEIJING – North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il told President Hu Jintao during his secretive trip to China that he is ready to return to stalled nuclear disarmament negotiations, a media report said on Thursday.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency, without giving sources, said Kim made the pledge during more than four hours of talks Wednesday with the Chinese president, who had asked Pyongyang to come back to the table.

North Korea's "Dear Leader" arrived Monday for his first trip abroad in more than four years -- a visit shrouded in secrecy, with journalists waiting for hours, only to catch a fleeting glimpse of a motorcade.

His apparent departure was equally as stealthy. Yonhap said a special North Korean train had left Beijing Thursday, and that a convoy of cars had arrived at the station beforehand -- without any real evidence Kim was aboard.

"Kim's motorcade moved in the direction of Beijing Station, though it is difficult to confirm his travel route and destination," Yonhap quoted a diplomatic source in Beijing as saying.

Analysts said Kim's visit to China -- Pyongyang's only major ally and its main source for finance, food and fuel -- was aimed at securing badly-needed assistance for his sanctions-hit economy.

In return, analysts expected Kim to announce he would rejoin talks on ending the North's nuclear weapons drive, although Seoul said there would be no negotiations until the sinking of a South Korean warship is resolved.

"His current trip to China appears to have a strong political and diplomatic motive, compared to his previous trips," Kim Yong-Hyun, a North Korea expert at Dongguk University in Seoul, told AFP.

"North Korea now needs a breakthrough as its isolation from the international community has deepened, with its economic troubles worsening."

Pyongyang is under tough UN sanctions over its refusal to halt its atomic drive, and its ravaged economy suffered a new blow in November when a currency reform backfired, wiping out people's savings and sending prices soaring.

China is seen as the only country capable of wielding any influence over Kim's hardline communist regime and persuading it back to the six-party disarmament talks.

Kim and Hu met Wednesday evening at the Great Hall of the People and the North Korean had been expected to meet Premier Wen Jiabao and Vice President Xi Jinping on Thursday, Yonhap said.

Kim was expected to discuss economic cooperation with Wen, who proposed the development of a China-North Korean "economic belt" when he visited Pyongyang last October, Yonhap said.

Earlier this week, Kim visited docks and industrial facilities in and around the Chinese port cities of Dalian and Tianjin -- both lauded by Chinese authorities as models of economic development.

The North has said it will not return to the nuclear forum grouping the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States until UN sanctions are lifted and Washington agrees to talks on a formal peace treaty.

But any resumption of the talks which Pyongyang walked out of a year ago has been complicated by the March sinking of a South Korean warship in a blast Seoul has hinted could be the work of the North.

South Korean presidential spokesman Park Sun-Kyoo said it was Seoul's "firm position that there should be no six-party talks before the Cheonan incident is resolved".

Pyongyang has denied all responsibility.

The United States said Wednesday it had shared with China its concerns about North Korea's "provocative behaviour" and voiced support for Seoul over the Cheonan disaster.

"We hope that North Korea will... live up to its obligations and meet its commitments," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters. "We hope that North Korea will cease its provocative behaviour but then we will see what comes out of the meeting tomorrow."

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said Thursday that Beijing would make "unremitting efforts" for an early resumption of the six-party talks -- while still declining to confirm Kim's visit.

All Chinese state media reports on the visit were sourced to foreign news outlets and North Korea, which tightly controls news about the country, has also not confirmed the trip.

Kim, who is said to have a fear of flying, has visited China four times since 2000, each time travelling in a special armoured train. He is widely thought to have suffered a stroke in 2008.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

© Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

BEIJING – North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il told President Hu Jintao during his secretive trip to China that he is ready to return to stalled nuclear disarmament negotiations, a media report said on Thursday.
Thursday, 06 May 2010 09:56 AM
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