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2008/06/19 11:27 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 8 (June 19, 2008)

   *** TOPIC OF THE WEEK (Part 1)

China's Vice President in N. Korea to Increase Cooperation, Relations

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping is currently in Pyongyang on a three-day visit from June 17 for talks that will apparently focus on speeding up North Korea's denuclearization and boosting bilateral cooperation. Xi is the highest-level Chinese official to visit North Korea since Pyongyang tested a nuclear weapon in October 2006.

   The Chinese vice president, widely seen as the front-runner to succeed President Hu Jintao in 2012, was expected to discuss the six-party talks on denuclearizing the North and exchange views on bilateral relations, Chinese experts said.

   North Korean leader Kim Jong-il met with the Chinese official on the second day of his visit and exchanged views on mutual interests. It is the first overseas visit by Xi since he assumed the post earlier this year. North Korea is the first leg of his five-nation Asian tour, which will also take him to Mongolia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Yemen.

   North Korean media reported that Xi delivered a verbal message from Chinese President Hu Jintao to the North Korean leader during their meeting. But the report stopped short of revealing the contents of the message.

   Kim Jong-il "thanked Xi for the message, delivered his greetings to Comrade Hu and held a warming and friendly conversation with Comrade Xi," according to the report by the North's Korean Central TV Station.

   There was no mention of specific topics discussed in Xi's meeting with Kim, but they were widely expected to discuss Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program and ways to strengthen existing relations between the two countries.

   Also attending the Kim-Xi meeting were Kim Yang-gon, department director of the Workers' Party, and Kang Sok-ju, the first-vice minister of foreign affairs, who is the top policymaker believed to have influence over the six-party talks on the North's denuclearization. The multilateral talks involved the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia.

   According to Xinhua News Agency, Xi "proposed to strengthen bilateral coordination and cooperation in the six-party talks on the DPRK nuclear issue" when he held a meeting on June 17 with Yang Hyong-sop, vice president of the Presidium of the North's Supreme People's Assembly. DPRK is short for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

   On June 18, Xi visited the International Friendship Exhibition on Mt. Myohyang in North Pyongan Province, the North's media reported.

   On the first day of his visit, Xi met with Kim Yong-nam, the country's No. 2 leader who serves as president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly. Xi Jinping is also a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.

   The North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Xi and Kim exchanged dialogue in a friendly mood, quoting Kim as saying that "it is the firm stance of the Workers' Party of (North) Korea and the government to expand and develop relations" between the two countries. Xi expressed his deep gratitude for North Korea's hospitality and said that the friendship and cooperation between the two sides would be developed further, according to the news agency.

   Noting that this year marks the 60th anniversary of the founding of the DPRK, Xi hoped that "the Korean people would register great successes in all fields in the spirit of fortitude under the leadership of Kim Jong-il."
Xi was accompanied by Chinese foreign affairs and economic officials including Zhu Zhixin, vice minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui, Vice Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng and Liu Hongcai, deputy head of the International Liaison Department of the Committee.

   During the meeting with Yang Hyong-sop, the Chinese side expressed wholehearted thanks for the message of sympathy sent by leader Kim Jong-il to Chinese President Hu Jintao, and for the fund offered by the North in connection with the earthquake damage in China.

   The two countries signed agreements on economic and technical cooperation, air transport and road transport. Also, plans on cooperation in state quality supervision between the DPRK and China were inked, according to the KCNA report.

   Diplomatic sources said that Xi Jinping was scheduled to discuss his government's plan to provide food aid to North Korea when he visits the famine-stricken country. Aid groups say North Korea faces one of the worst food shortages in its history because of flooding last year combined with rising grain prices and reduced foreign handouts. The U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization has said the North's shortfall this year will reach 1.66 million tons. The U.S. pledged to send 500,000 tons of food aid in the next year to help prevent impoverished North Koreans from dying of starvation.

   China, a staunch communist ally of North Korea, has annually provided 100,000-150,000 tons of cereals in humanitarian aid to the North under an economic cooperation agreement between the two countries.

   No Chinese food assistance has been given this year, however, as the country began to strictly control food exports due to rising domestic demand and soaring global food prices since the start of this year. Beijing has recently softened the restriction, allocating 100,000 tons of overseas food exports for North Korea -- in addition to 50,000 tons sent early this year -- at Pyongyang's strong request, the sources said.

  (END)