China, North Korea ties to reach new heights following Jiang visit
CHINESE PRESIDENT JIANG Zemin's visit to North Korea would lift ties between the Asian neighbors to new heights and improve stability on the Korean Peninsula, a senior Chinese official said Wednesday.
"The visit of Jiang Zemin to North Korea is a major event in the history of relations between China and North Korea," Wang Jiarui, vice minister of the International Liaison Department of the Chinese Communist Party told reporters.
"Jiang's visit will elevate the traditional fine relationship between China and North Korea to new heights in the new century."
Wang, who returned from North Korea with Jiang's delegation Wednesday, said closer ties between Beijing and Pyongyang would play a positive role in maintaining stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the region.
During talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, Jiang strongly expressed China's support for North-South dialogue and for the realization of an "independent and peaceful reunification" with South Korea, he said.
"With regard to when Kim Jong Il will pay a return visit to the South, this is an issue that should be decided by both the North and the South," Wang said.
During his talks, Jiang also reiterated China's support for the improvement of ties and eventual normalisation of North Korea's relations with the US, the European Union and Japan, he added.
Wang refused to elaborate on discussions between the two leaders on joint opposition to a proposed US missile shield or US demands that North Korea cut back its ballistic missile program and end ballistic missile tests.
"I have not heard anything concerning specific discussions on missile tests," he said.
"[But] Jiang Zemin and Kim Jong Il exchanged extensive views on international and regional issues of common concern and achieved much common ground."
China learnt from the visit that the North Korean economy had started to improve, Wang said but he refused to elaborate on details of a reported North Korean economic reform and opening up plan.
Wang also said the absence of a joint statement during Jiang's visit in no way detracted from the "complete success" of the trip.
"Eleven years after my first visit, many things in the world and in our own countries have changed, but what has not changed is our existing traditional friendly relations," Jiang was quoted as telling Kim -- BEIJING (AFP)
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