April 20 (Bloomberg) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao probably centered around North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and economic ties, a South Korean government official said.
The unannounced visit to China by North Korea’s reclusive leader started days after U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney met leaders of China, Japan and South Korea to discuss attempts to end the impasse over the North’s nuclear weapons program.
Cheney said time is running out to resolve the impasse over the program, which had moved further toward building weapons than previously thought. A Pakistani scientist who admitted selling nuclear technology to North Korea saw nuclear bombs during a visit there, the New York Times reported last week.
“The New York Times report made it clear to Cheney that more rapid progress in six-way talks are necessary,” the South Korean official told a press conference in Seoul, asking not to be identified. “The U.S. and South Korea are working very hard to inaugurate working group talks.”
China, the U.S., South Korea, Japan and Russia have held two rounds of talks with North Korea aimed at getting the North to end its nuclear program. The second round ended in February with an agreement to form a working group to prepare for a third round, to be held before the end of June.
During his second day talks in Beijing, North Korea’s Kim probably reiterated his offer to freeze his country’s nuclear program if the U.S. pays compensation and changes its “hostile” stance, South Korea’s Yonhap News agency said. Hu probably pressed Kim to attend a the third round of talks, it said.
China Wants Progress
“The media have cited nuclear program and economic cooperation” as main agenda for Kim’s talks with China, the South Korean official said. “I don’t think we’re too far from those two issues.”
The U.S. has insisted that North Korea dismantle its nuclear program as a precondition to restoration of food and fuel aid. North Korea has in turn demanded the U.S. promise not to attack and pledge food and financial aid before it commits to disarming.
China, host to the six-nation talks, wants progress, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Kong Quan said. He refused to deny Kim’s visit, and declined to confirm it. Kim arrived in Beijing yesterday, Yonhap said.
“We should have confidence that the third round of the talks will be held before the end of June,” Kong told reporters in Beijing. “We must have confidence that the working group will be convened before that.”
Separately, the victory of pro-government Uri Party in Thursday’s legislative election is probably won’t make South Korean policy toward the North more independent, the South Korean official said. The Uri Party supports détente with North Korea.
“We have members from extreme left to extreme right,” the official said. “But a majority is in the middle. More than a majority believe that South Korea-U.S. alliance is very, very important to push through six-way talks.”
The official reaffirmed South Korea’s commitment to send 3,000 soldiers to Iraq in addition to about 400 non-combat personnel already there.