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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

N.Korean premier arrives in China for talks

RIA Novosti

17/03/2009 11:12 BEIJING, March 17 (RIA Novosti) - North Korean Premier Kim Yong-il arrived in Beijing on Tuesday on a five-day visit to discuss bilateral and international issues.

The official's visit will include talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao. Kim will also take part in the opening ceremony of the Year of Friendship between China and North Korea, and celebrations of the countries' 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations.

Before the start of his trip, the North Korean official told Chinese state media that his country appreciates the "vigorously friendly relations with China during the current complex and changeable international trends," and that North Korean-Chinese relations "make a real contribution to ensuring the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula, the northeast Asia region and the world".

China is North Korea's main ally and trading partner, and also the host of the six-nation talks on the North's denuclearization program, which also involve Russia, the United States, South Korea, and Japan.

The official's visit to China comes amid international concerns over North Korea's launch of what it says is a satellite, but what is widely suspected in the West as a cover-up for testing of ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Last week North Korea announced plans to launch a communications satellite between April 4 and April 8.

Tensions remain high on the Korean Peninsula due to the expected satellite launch, as well as South Korean-U.S. military exercises that end on Friday. North Korea earlier said it could not guarantee the safety of civilian aircraft near or over its airspace, because of the exercises.

Relations between Seoul and the communist North have deteriorated since South Korean President Lee Myung-bak took office in February 2008, rolling back the so-called Sunshine Policy of the previous 10 years.

North Korea said recently it would scrap all political and military agreements with South Korea, including a non-aggression pact, over its neighbor's "hostile intent." The two countries are still technically at war as their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty.

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