Archive for Saturday, October 29, 2005

North Korean leader promises to return for nuclear talks

October 29, 2005

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— North Korean leader Kim Jong Il promised Friday to take part in the next round of nuclear talks in November, Chinese state TV reported, as China's president made a rare personal visit to Pyongyang to lobby for progress in disarmament efforts.

Kim reportedly told Chinese President Hu Jintao that the North was committed to a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.

It was the Stalinist dictatorship's highest-level commitment yet to push ahead with talks aimed at stripping North Korea of its nuclear programs.

"The North Korean side will participate as scheduled in the fifth round of six-nation talks," the state TV news quoted Kim as saying. "North Korea is committed to the denuclearization of the (Korean) peninsula."

North Korean media did not immediately report on Kim's remarks.

Hu flew to Pyongyang on Friday in an apparent effort to push for progress in the Chinese-organized nuclear talks, which also involve the United States, South Korea, Japan and Russia.

China didn't disclose Hu's agenda in advance, but analysts said he was certain to push Kim on the nuclear issue, possibly offering aid in exchange.

Hu told Kim that Beijing wants to see a nuclear-free Korean peninsula, Chinese state television said.

Despite the polite tone, China's status as the isolated North's last major ally and aid donor gave Hu's plea special weight.

China is under pressure from Washington and other governments to do more to push Pyongyang for concessions. Beijing has refrained from publicly confronting the North and says it has less influence than outsiders believe.

North Korea promised at the end of the last round of talks in Beijing in September - the fourth since 2003 - to give up its nuclear programs in exchange for aid and a security guarantee.

But Pyongyang immediately raised doubts about its willingness to carry out that pledge, saying it wanted a civilian nuclear reactor for power generation before it dismantles its program - a condition that Washington has challenged as possibly unworkable.

Hu is the first Chinese leader to visit North Korea since 2001. Kim, who rarely travels abroad, last visited Beijing in 2004, when he studied Chinese economic reforms.

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