SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea’s reclusive leader Kim Jong Il has reportedly held his first meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing amid heavy secrecy.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said Kim held his first summit with Hu on Monday, where the two leaders talked about Pyongyang’s nuclear program as well as Beijing’s economic aid.
Kim arrived in Beijing on Monday, after a closely-guarded overnight train ride though China and he is expected to stay until Thursday.
This is Kim’s first trip since Hu became president last year and he is likely to want to re-establish a rapport with Beijing, one of Pyongyang’s last major allies.
North Korea has come under pressure to curb its nuclear ambitions. U.S. intelligence sources say the nation has enough weapons grade plutonium for two to five nuclear devices.
The nuclear crisis on the peninsula has had North Asia on edge since late 2002, and a series of six-nation talks have been held in a bid to end the impasse.
The last meeting ended in February without much progress. The participants — the two Koreas, China, the United States, Japan and Russia — agreed to resume talks before July.
The rare trip comes just days after the United States warned that time was running out to resolve the nuclear crisis, and prodded China for a fresh push to end the diplomatic stalemate.
U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney wrapped up a weeklong visit to Asia by challenging allies in the region to do more to contain North Korea, saying that letting Pyongyang’s weapons program go unchecked could spark a new arms race in Asia and create a market for terrorists.
When Kim visited China in 2000 and 2001, neither side announced the trips in advance and barely released details until his return to Pyongyang.
A special train carrying Kim and his entourage of about 40 senior party and government officials arrived in Beijing in the morning, according to Yonhap.
Kim last visited China in January 2001.
Security was tight at the capital city’s main train station and shortly afterwards Kim left for Diaoyutai state guest house, where Chinese leaders usually receive visiting dignitaries.
Since taking over power in 1994 from his late father President Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il has been seeking to reform the North’s impoverished economy, and has been eyeing China’s market efforts.
In his trip in 2001, Kim toured Shanghai’s stock exchange and foreign joint-venture companies.
During this visit, he plans to visit Beijing’s equivalent of Silicon Valley, the Zhongguancun Technology Park, Yonhap said.
On his way back to North Korea, he will also likely visit Shenyang or Dalian in China’s northeast to study government efforts to boost the economy with outside investment.