China's president went to North Korea with promises of economic support, and emerged with a pledge from its leader to stick with six-nation talks aimed at halting the North's nuclear weapons program, Beijing said Sunday.
China is the last major ally of the isolated North, and crowds of thousands cheered Chinese President Hu Jintao during his rare, three-day visit that concluded Sunday. During their talks, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il told Hu "that the (North) adheres to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and to the peaceful solution of the nuclear issue through dialogue," said Wang Jiarui, head of the Chinese Communist Party's International Department.
The United States has urged China to use its leverage as a key provider of aid to impoverished North Korea to convince it to stop developing nuclear weapons. But while China says it wants a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, it might be reluctant to push North Korea too forcefully for fear of destabilizing the country's government.
Wang, speaking at a news conference, did not give figures on aid or describe any planned projects. He also evaded a question on what China thinks of North Korea's demand that it be given a light-water nuclear reactor for power generation before it disarms, saying that issue was covered by the six-nation talks, hosted by Beijing, on the nuclear issue.
Hu's trip came amid preparations for a fifth round of six-nation talks, set for early November. The Chinese-organized talks also involve the United States, South Korea, Japan and Russia. North Korea promised at the last round of talks in September to give up its nuclear program in exchange for aid and security guarantees, in a statement agreed to by all six parties.
However, North Korea's subsequent demand for a light-water reactor raised doubts about its willingness to proceed. Kim also reiterated that North Korea would attend the planned fifth round as scheduled, though exact dates have not been set, Wang said.
China fought on the side of North Korea during the 1950-53 Korean War. More recently, Beijing has tried to persuade the North to allow more free enterprise in its tightly controlled economy, citing China's economic boom as an example.
Hu's visit to the North _ the first by a top Chinese leader since 2001 _ included a tour of a Chinese-financed glass factory. He also attended North Korea's famed mass games on Saturday night, China Central Television reported, showing footage of thousands of performers dancing in unison in a giant stadium, AP reports.