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Pyongyang hints at resuming nuclear talks

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Pyongyang hints at resuming nuclear talks
United Nations Ambassador to Japan Yukio Takasu talks to reporters about the Security Council members' meeting concerning the nuclear situation in North Korea at the United Nations on June 1, 2009 in New York City. (UPI Photo/Monika Graff) | License Photo

BEIJING, May 7 (UPI) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Il told Chinese leaders in Beijing that he is set to resume the six-party talks to dismantle the state's nuclear program.

Kim is quoted by the Chinese state news agency Xinhua telling Chinese President Hu Jintao that North Korea "is willing to work with you to create favorable conditions for a resumption of the six-party talks."

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The visit is important for China, host of the stalled six-party talks that included the two Koreas, United States, Japan and Russia.

The generally fruitless discussions had been going on since 2003 when North Korea pulled out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. North Korea walked out of the last meeting in April 2009 after the United Nations imposed sanctions over a missile test by Pyongyang, even though the launch was a failure and the rocket fell into the ocean.

The Xinhua report and a similar dispatch by the agency North Korean News come out after Kim's secretive trip to China. Apart from the Beijing, Kim also spent time visiting factories in the city of Dalian, half way between the capitals of the two countries.

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Kim, 68, and several senior ministers, including the Minister of the People's Armed Forces Kim Yong Chun and the First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Sok Ju, were in China Monday through Friday. But the "unofficial visit to northeastern China," as Korean News called it, was announced only after the group returned to Pyongyang.

Neither China nor North Korea would confirm the trip was taking place. But photographers earlier took pictures of North Korean flags flying above buildings and a convoy of police-flanked limousines heading toward Beijing's Diaoyutai State Guest House where foreign leaders often stay.

They were invited by Chinese President Hu Jintao who is also general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. Chinese state television showed Kim being warmly greeted by Hu.

It was Kim's fifth trip to China and the first since 2006, Korea News agency noted.

Kim is notably frail in the footage shown on China's state television and he is suspected of having suffered a stroke in 2008.

Kim's political successor is thought to be his son Kim Jong Un. But he has limited political experience and remains as secretive as Kim's recent visit to China. Few photographs of him exist.

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Kim Jong Un, 27, is thought to have attended the English-language International School of Bern in Switzerland under a false name in 1998.

Last November there were reports by South Korean media that North Korea's No. 2 man, Jang Song Taek, might seize power after the expected death of Kim Jong Il. Jang, 63, is head of the National Defense Commission.

China is often regarded as North Korea's main economic and military partner.

Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie, on an official visit to North Korea late last year, said, "No force on Earth can break the unity of the armies and peoples of the two countries, and it will last forever."

He said China and North Korea must strengthen their defense alliance that was first "sealed in blood" when they fought together in the Korean War which ended in 1953. North Korea and China were on one side and South Korea and U.N. forces on the other.

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