US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright held talks in Beijing on Thursday with her Chinese counterpart, Tang Jiaxuan, at a time Iranian president Mohammed Khatami arrived in the country for a five-day visit, during which he would hold talks with Chinese president Jiang Zemin.
Albright, who was also to meet Vice Premier, Qian Qichan, Premier Zhu Rongji and President Jiang Zemin later in the day, is keen to hear about North Korea president, Kim Jong-Il, who last month visited Beijing before hosting a historic summit with South Korean President Kim Dae Jung.
Washington is eager to see Beijing, isolated North Korea's main ally, use its influence to encourage stability on the divided Korean peninsula where 37,000 US troops are stationed.
But US officials are also hoping the Chinese can provide some insight into the mysterious Kim Jong-Il's leadership.
"This will be the first time that Secretary Albright will be able to say to someone: 'You've met Kim Jong-Il, what is he like? What did he say? Is he thinking about the economy? Did he talk about a vision for peace on the peninsula?" a senior State Department official said.
"This is a real opportunity to talk," the official told reporters traveling with Albright.
Meanwhile, Khatami’s visit aims at further developing Iranian-Chinese ties, Iranian diplomats said.
The visit is the first by an Iranian president since Hashemi Rafsanjami came in 1992 and inked a 1.7 billion dollar deal to buy two Chinese nuclear reactors.
However, the deal was later deleted after tremendous pressure by the international community led by the United States and Israel, which feared the reactors could be used to covertly produce nuclear weapons – BEIJING (AFP)
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