- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 19, 2009

BEIJING (AP) - China’s premier urged North Korea to cooperate with efforts to resume stalled international talks on dismantling Pyongyang’s nuclear programs, state media said Thursday as the North’s visiting premier met with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Premier Kim Yong Il passed on “warm greetings” to Hu from North Korea’s reclusive leader Kim Jong Il.

Reporters were ushered from the room before more substantial talks began. However, the meeting was likely to include discussion about a possible summit between Hu and Kim Jong Il, the South Korean news agency Yonhap reported ahead of the meeting, citing unnamed sources in Beijing.

The official People’s Daily newspaper said Premier Wen Jiabao told Kim Yong Il a day earlier that China wants to “actively push forward” the deadlocked negotiations involving the two Koreas, China, the U.S., Russia and Japan.

Wen also said China is willing to play a constructive role in the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, the paper said.

North Korea has sent jitters through the international community with the announcement that it plans to launch a communications satellite in early April, an event that many believe will be a cover for a long-range missile test.

On Wednesday, the North reasserted its right to launch a satellite into space, saying Russia, Iran, India and many other countries have been pursuing peaceful space programs, according to the country’s official Korean Central News Agency.

Regional powers are looking to China, host of the international talks and North Korea’s biggest benefactor and longtime communist ally, to help calm tensions in the region and return Pyongyang to the negotiating table.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang would not elaborate on what steps China was planning to take in the matter, but said Thursday that Beijing “sincerely hopes” the next round of six-party talks can be held as soon as possible.

The timing would depend on whether the delegations can agree on when to meet and “whether the conditions are right,” Qin said.

China’s chief delegate to the international nuclear talks, Wu Dawei, quietly made a trip to the North in February seeking a breakthrough, South Korean and Japanese media reported at the time. Beijing has not confirmed the trip.

Chinese leaders have asked Kim Jong Il to visit China after his nation’s newly elected parliament holds its first session, Yonhap said. No date has been announced publicly, but the session is expected to take place in early April.

Kim, 67, reportedly suffered a stroke last August, around the time the elections were due to be held. North Korea denies he was ill and did not provide a reason for delaying the ballot until March, when Kim was re-elected.

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