North Korean Leader Reportedly in China

Published April 19, 2004

| Associated Press

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il (searcharrived Monday in China for discussions with President Hu Jintao (searchabout the North's nuclear weapons program and to ask for economic assistance, South Korean media reported.

China's Foreign Ministry would not confirm Kim's arrival in Beijing and said it had "no information" on the meeting with the Chinese leader, which would be the first since Hu became president last year.

When Kim visited China in 2000 and 2001, neither side announced the trips in advance and released few details until his return to the North Korean capital of Pyongyang (search).

A special train carrying Kim and his entourage of about 40 senior party and government officials arrived in Beijing Monday morning, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

Security was tight at the capital city's main train station and reporters saw a convoy of heavily armored cars with tinted windows leave the area. Shortly after, the cars arrived at the Diaoyutai state guest house, where Chinese leaders usually receive visiting dignitaries.

Hu and Kim were expected to discuss the North's nuclear program, a step that could jump-start the process of determining when the next round of six-nation talks on the issue will be. The last meeting, aimed at persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons (searchprogram, ended in February without much progress and the participants — which also include South Korea, the United States, Japan and Russia — agreed to resume talks before July.

Kim also was expected to seek economic and energy assistance from China, Pyongyang's last major ally, and reconfirm traditional ties between the two sides, South Korean state-run KBS-TV said.

He reportedly planned to meet former President Jiang Zemin, who heads China's powerful military commission, Premier Wen Jiabao and other top Chinese officials, as well as attend a dinner hosted by Hu during his four-day visit.

Since taking over power in 1994 from his late father President Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il has been struggling to revive the impoverished North's economy, learning from China's capitalist experiments.

In his trip in 2001, Kim visited Shanghai's stock exchange and foreign joint-venture companies. During this visit, he plans to tour Zhongguancun Technology Park, Beijing's equivalent of Silicon Valley, Yonhap said.

On his way back to North Korea, he will also likely visit Shenyang or Dalian in China's northeast to study government efforts to boost the economy with outside investment.

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