North’s leader likely to visit China

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North’s leader likely to visit China

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il could visit China this month and the six-party talks would soon resume afterward, a diplomatic source said yesterday.

According to the source, Wi Sung-lac, South Korea’s chief nuclear negotiator, and Stephen Bosworth, the special U.S. representative for North Korea policy, received “detailed briefings” from their Chinese counterparts last month in Beijing. Wi and Bosworth’s trips came after Kim Gye-gwan, the chief North Korean nuclear negotiator, visited Beijing.

“China presented to South Korea and the United States what it felt these two countries and North Korea could and couldn’t accept as they work toward reopening the six-party talks,” the source said. “China is in the final stage of the negotiations with North Korea over the six-party talks.

“Seoul and Washington are awaiting the result and are pressuring the North to make the decision,” the source added. “Once China and North Korea reach an agreement, Kim Jong-il will visit China. That will be a clear signal that the six-party talks are imminent.”

Kim Yong-il, director of the international department at the ruling Workers’ Party, is visiting China and his trip may be a prelude to Kim Jong-il’s eventual visit, the source said.

In recent weeks, South Korea and the United States have ratcheted up diplomatic efforts to reopen the six-party talks, which were last staged in December 2008. Aside from Wi’s visit to Beijing, South Korea’s Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan flew to Washington last week to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Bosworth also made stops in Seoul and Tokyo and has said the United States is prepared to move “on very short notice.”

Seoul and Washington officials have been optimistic about prospects for the six-party talks. Yu said in mid-February that the talks would be held “in the near future.” Clinton said she was “encouraged” by recent progress.

“In regard to the resumption of the six-party talks, South Korea and the United States are on the same page,” the source offered. “That Bosworth stayed for just one night in Beijing and traveled to Seoul is a good indication that the two countries have cooperated well with each other.”

By Kang Chan-ho []

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