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China to invite NKorea's Kim for state visit

AFP | September 3 2006

China will invite North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il to make a state visit amid ongoing efforts to persuade Pyongyang not to test a nuclear bomb, South Korean media reported Sunday.

"The Chinese government has decided to restore its relationship with the North, and inviting Kim Jong-Il for a state visit is going to be its first step," the Yonhap news agency quoted a South Korean official as saying.

The unnamed government official said that according to sources in Seoul and Beijing, China would officially invite Kim when its new ambassador to Pyongyang takes up his post this week.

Last week, South Korean news reports said Kim was already visiting China, but the foreign ministry in Beijing denied that the reclusive North Korean leader had travelled across the border.

On Sunday, Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said that Kim had visited a chicken farm in North Korea earlier in the day -- the first time it had reported his whereabouts since Monday, according to Yonhap.

Kim is known to have visited China four times since 2000. Pyongyang and Beijing acknowledge Kim's trips only after he has returned home.

China reportedly has already issued an unofficial invitation to Kim to visit "as soon as possible", Yonhap quoted diplomatic sources in Seoul as saying Sunday.

North Korea said in February 2005 that it had nuclear weapons, but there have never been reports of any actual tests of an atomic bomb.

The secretive communist state has been under international pressure since test-firing seven missiles that splashed down in the Sea of Japan on July 5.

The United States has stepped up pressure on China, the North's closest ally, to take stronger action following the launches and to urge North Korea to return to six-nation talks on ending its nuclear weapons program.

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