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North Korean leader's train near border with China: report

AFP | September 5 2006

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il's train has arrived at the border town of Shinuiju in an apparent sign of his impending visit to China, a news report said Tuesday.

But China's foreign ministry said in Beijing there were no arrangements for any visit.

Seoul-based JoongAng Ilbo said the train's presence at Shinuiju, which is linked by a river bridge to China's town of Dandong, raised expectations that Kim would visit China in the next few days.

An earlier media report said China planned to invite Kim amid international concern that his country may be preparing to test a nuclear bomb.

"Chairman Kim's special train now stays at the Shinuiju station amid speculation about his visit to China," the newspaper quoted a source in Beijing as saying.

"Given the previous cases that the train usually crosses the Aprok river at dawn to reach the Chinese gateway of Dandong, his visit is likely to begin sometime on Tuesday."

The river is better known as the Yalu.

An official at Dandong station told AFP no trains from North Korea had crossed the border during the day.

JoongAng, quoting another source in Beijing, said a North Korean elite security team was in Beijing on August 25 in apparent preparation for his visit.

Officials at South Korea's unification ministry had no comment on the news report.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency, citing an unnamed government official, reported Sunday that China had decided to invite Kim.

It quoted a source in Dandong Tuesday as saying roads to Shinuiju from elsewhere in North Korea were all blocked.

In Beijing foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang, asked about a possible visit, said that "As far as I know, we don't have such an arrangement."

North Korea has been under international pressure since test-firing seven missiles that splashed down in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) on July 5.

A US media report has since said the North may be planning a nuclear test. North Korea announced in February 2005 that it had nuclear weapons but there have never been any reports of a test.

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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