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China's Number Two Leader Plans Visit to North Korea

  • Stephanie Ho

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Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will sign several agreements with North Korean leaders during a visit to Pyongyang next week.

Wen Jiabao is making a trip to North Korea next week to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the establishment of relations between the two neighbors.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu says Premier Wen's visit will reciprocate a visit to China in March by North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

Jiang says during this visit, China will review its relations with North Korea and "map out the development plan for the future of bilateral relations."

She says the visit, which begins Sunday and ends Tuesday, will have concrete results, but gave no details.

The spokeswoman says the two sides will sign a series of cooperation agreements, dealing with trade, tourism and education.

She said China has been helping North Korea "within its capacity."

China is North Korea's biggest international ally and one of Pyongyang's largest aid providers.

Jiang did not directly say if Mr. Wen would raise the issue of the six-party talks on the North Korean nuclear programs. She called the stalled talks an "effective and practical mechanism". She repeated the Chinese government's position that it would like to see an end to the programs brought about through negotiation.

Mr. Wen's visit comes after recent signs that North Korea is softening its stance and may be willing to return to the six-party talks. Earlier this year, North Korea declared the talks dead. Pyongyang tested a nuclear explosive device and also launched a long-range missile, both in defiance of United Nations resolutions.

But in the past few months, Pyongyang has made several conciliatory gestures. Among them, it freed two American journalists arrested for entering North Korea illegally and has cooperated with South Korea on reuniting families separated since the Korean War in the 1950s.