August 23, 2006

North Korea’s Kim may visit China next week: report

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong-il may visit
key ally China next week amid heightened concern over a
possible nuclear weapons test by the reclusive state and its
defiant missile launch in July, a news report said on Thursday.

Kim's visit will be primarily to discuss the North's
possible nuclear test with Chinese President Hu Jintao, the
daily Chosun Ilbo reported a diplomatic source in Seoul as

"Authorities in Seoul and Washington were briefed that Kim
Jong-il is to take a three-day trip to China around August 30,"
the source told the newspaper.

Officials at South Korea's foreign ministry could not
immediately be reached for comment.

North Korea defied international warnings and test-fired
seven missiles on July 5, including a long-range Taepodong-2
that experts say may one day hit parts of U.S. territory. China
voted for a U.N. Security Council resolution criticizing the

A U.S. news report last week said the North was also
preparing to conduct its first nuclear weapons test. South
Korea's foreign minister said on Wednesday such a test was a

"Chances are that Kim will visit China next week in
relation with North Korea's possible nuclear test," the paper
cited another diplomatic source as saying.

Experts on the North were skeptical about a Kim visit to
China, saying Beijing was hardly in a welcoming mood because of
what it sees as unnecessarily provocative moves by the North
with its weapons programs.

Kim rarely travels abroad, but he went on a stealthy visit
to China in January and took a look at the places that helped
drive China's economic development.

Kim was also not likely to be seeking out China now, its
main benefactor and single remaining key ally, an expert said,
because of disappointment over what he sees as a failure by
Beijing to convince Washington to drop a financial crackdown
against it.

Talks by six countries aimed at ending the North's nuclear
weapons program have been stalled since November due to a U.S.
crackdown on firms it suspects of aiding North Korea in illicit
activities, such as counterfeiting.

Pyongyang said it would be unthinkable for it to return to
the nuclear talks while Washington is trying to topple its
leaders through financial pressure.