- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 29, 2005

BEIJING — Chinese President Hu Jintao got a bear hug from North Korean leader Kim Jong-il after arriving in North Korea yesterday on a visit that underscores China’s role in persuading Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear programs.

The trip, ahead of a new round of six-party nuclear talks, follows a flurry of Chinese diplomatic overtures to North Korea — Vice Prime Minister Wu Yi met with Mr. Kim earlier this month, and Li Bin, a Chinese diplomat responsible for Korean affairs, went last week.

“Hu … voiced his belief that under Kim’s leadership, the DPRK people will score greater accomplishment in exploring a development path suited to its own conditions and building a strong and prosperous country,” Xinhua news agency said of his statement delivered at Pyongyang’s airport.

Thousands of people, many waving fake flowers and dressed in colorful traditional Korean robes, lined the streets, dancing, singing and chanting slogans as Mr. Hu’s motorcade wove through the capital. It was his first visit there as president.

The United States has put pressure on China to try to use its position as North Korea’s closest ally and key aid provider to keep the Stalinist country at the table and ensure some results at the next round of six-party talks.

“Hu Jintao’s visit is in part to encourage a breakthrough at this very important moment,” said Shi Yinhong of the People’s University of China. “China wants North Korea to show more flexibility.”

The visit may encourage North Korea to make concessions at the fifth round of talks likely to open in Beijing on Nov. 8. Mr. Kim reaffirmed to Mr. Hu that his country would participate in the talks.

The challenge now is to begin implementing a landmark joint statement agreed upon at the last session in September.

North Korea agreed in the document to dismantle its nuclear weapons programs and renew compliance with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in exchange for aid and better ties with Washington and Tokyo.

Yesterday, Mr. Kim called the document “positive,” Chinese state television reported, but tough questions remain over the timing of concessions.

There are also disagreements among the six parties — North and South Korea, the United States, Japan, Russia and host China — over Pyongyang’s demands for a light-water reactor to generate atomic energy.

Taking a tough stance, a North Korean diplomat told South Korea’s Yonhap news agency on Thursday that the North would disclose no details of its nuclear programs and atomic weapons until the light-water reactor had been built for it.

Han Song-ryol, deputy chief of the North’s U.N. mission, added that Pyongyang had no interest in Seoul’s offer of electricity if it was meant as an alternative to the reactor.

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