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N. Korean leader arrives in Yangzhou in eastern China

A special train carrying North Korean leader Kim Jong-il arrived in Yangzhou
in eastern China for a visit that a top Beijing official said is aimed at helping
Pyongyang learn about Chinese economic development.

   Kim arrived at Yangzhou Station in Jiangsu Province at 7:54 p.m. on the third day of his secretive Chinese visit after departing from Changchun in northeastern China on Saturday.

   Contrary to expectations for his visit to Beijing for a summit with Chinese President Hu Jintao, the 69-year-old leader headed directly to Yangzhou, adjacent to China's economic capital of Shanghai, via Shenyang and possibly Tianjin.

   Sources said that a motorcade apparently carrying Kim and his entourage left Yangzhou's train station shortly after the arrival of the train and headed for a state guest house.

   Security had been noticeably tightened around the train station in Yangzhou, where Kim's late father and North Korean founder Kim Il-sung held talks with then-Chinese leader Jiang Zemin in October 1991.

   It was not clear whether Kim Jong-il will again tour Shanghai on this trip, his third to China in a little over a year. China and North Korea usually confirm the North Korean leader's trips only after they are over, apparently due to security concerns.

   No details of Kim's official itinerary are known, including when or where he will meet the Chinese leadership.

   The trip comes a decade after Kim visited Shanghai in 2001 and marveled at its development after decades of economic reform that lifted millions of Chinese out of poverty.

   In Tokyo, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said at the tripartite summit of leaders from South Korea, Japan and China that Beijing invited Kim in an effort to help Pyongyang learn about Chinese economic development and use it for reviving the North's economy.

  "China invited Chairman Kim Jong-il to provide the North with an opportunity to understand China's economic development and use the understanding for its own (economic) development," Wen told South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, according to Lee's spokesman Hong Sang-pyo.

   Wen referred to Kim by his official title at the North's National Defense Commission and made the remark during a bilateral meeting with Lee on the sidelines of a tripartite summit in Tokyo that also included Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

   China has urged North Korea to follow its footsteps in embracing economic reform, which catapulted China to become the world's second-largest economy.

   China is the North's last remaining ally and benefactor, and its support to its impoverished neighbor is widely seen as a key to maintaining stability in the North.

   In 2002, the North designated Sinuiju, a city bordering China, as a special economic zone, but the plan fell through after Beijing arrested its governor, Yang Bin, a Chinese-Dutch entrepreneur, on bribery and kickback charges.

   The trip comes as Kim, who inherited power from his father, is grooming his youngest son, Jong-un, as his successor.

   He named Jong-un vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers' Party and a four-star general last September in what analysts believe is the clearest move yet to make him the North's next leader.

   Despite rampant speculation, it has yet to be confirmed whether
Kim Jong-un is included in the elder Kim's 70-member entourage to China.

   Kim began his secretive trip to China last Friday by train and toured a car plant in Changchun, an industrial hub in northeastern China, before passing through Shenyang and heading south.

   The trip also comes as leaders of South Korea, China and Japan
have expressed concerns over Pyongyang's uranium enrichment program
and called for the right dialogue atmosphere to revive the six-party talks on ending the North's nuclear programs.

   In November, North Korea revealed a uranium enrichment program that could serve as a second way of making nuclear bombs, aside from its plutonium reactor. Pyongyang claims the facility is for power generation.

   The North has expressed its willingness to rejoin the nuclear talks that it quit in 2009, but Seoul and Washington demand Pyongyang first demonstrate its denuclearization commitment by action.

   Seoul also wants Pyongyang to apologize for its two deadly attacks last year on the South before resuming the stalled nuclear talks that involve the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the U.S.

   Meanwhile, Robert King, the U.S. envoy for North Korean human rights, is scheduled to travel to North Korea for five days from Tuesday. 

(Yonhap News)

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