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2009/10/04 11:29 KST
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao arrives in N. Korea

  
SEOUL, Oct. 4 (Yonhap) -- Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao arrived in North Korea on Sunday, a Chinese report said, on a trip that comes amid growing diplomatic efforts to revive multilateral negotiations on Pyongyang's nuclear program.

   Wen was widely expected to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il during his stay that ends Tuesday. He is the highest-ranking figure to visit the allied neighbor since Chinese President Hu Jintao traveled there in 2005.

   Xinhua News Agency said the trip is officially aimed at attending celebrations in Pyongyang of the 60th anniversary of the allies' diplomatic relations. But Wen is widely viewed as focused on diplomacy for reviving the stalled disarmament talks and China's expected economic assistance to the North.

   The disarmament forum also involves South Korea, the United States, China, Japan and Russia. North Korea quit the talks in April in protest of U.N. criticism over its long-range rocket launch, which was widely viewed by Western powers as a test of its ballistic missile technology. Responding to subsequent U.N. sanctions, Pyongyang conducted its second nuclear test in May.

   North Korea shifted to conciliatory diplomacy in August, inviting Stephen Bosworth, U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, in an attempt to make a breakthrough with bilateral talks.

   Last month, the North Korean leader said he was open to either "bilateral or multilateral dialogue," hinting the country may return to the six-party talks. He made the remarks to a visiting Chinese presidential envoy, Dai Bingguo.

   Washington is expected to announce a trip to Pyongyang by Bosworth after Wen's visit.

   North Korea hailed Wen's visit as opening a new chapter in bilateral relations.

   The visit "clearly illustrates that the party and the government of China attach great importance to the friendship" between the two countries, the Rodong Sinmun, a newspaper published by the Workers' Party, said in an editorial. It was carried by the Korean Central Broadcasting Station, a state-run radio.

   Wen's trip will "open a new chapter in the history of the friendship" and be "a great encouragement to the Korean people" who are striving to build a prosperous nation, it said.

   China's Xinhua News Agency said earlier in the morning Wen departed from Beijing and was accompanied by Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, Wang Jiarui, head of the Chinese communist party's international department, and Wu Dawei, China's chief envoy to the nuclear negotiations.

   hkim@yna.co.kr
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