A top Chinese diplomat says North Korea remains stable, despite unconfirmed reports that posters of leader Kim Jong Il have been taken down in the capital, Pyongyang.
Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister told reporters in Beijing that he recently visited the North Korean capital and said speculation that leader Kim Jong Il may be losing his grip on power is groundless.
The Chinese diplomat says North Korea's political situation is stable and he said its economy is developing. Mr. Wu says North Korea's leaders have been reforming the economy and he says living standards have been improving.
Mr. Wu's remarks follow unconfirmed reports that posters of the North Korean leader had been coming down in the North Korean capital. Removing the posters would be unusual in the Stalinist state where Mr. Kim and his late father Kim Il Sung, the North's first leader, are venerated.
The Chinese official, who visited North Korea in September, also denied South Korean media reports that China was massing troops along its border with the North. An article published in a South Korean newspaper this week quoted unidentified sources in Washington as saying satellite photos showed about 10,000 troops preparing to deploy along the border area.
China has expressed concern about a rising number of North Korean refugees who have been sneaking across the border. Beijing officials also worry that instability in North Korea could spill onto Chinese territory.
Meanwhile, South Korean officials said North Korea is sending positive signals about its willingness to return to multi-party nuclear talks.
China, the United States, Japan, South Korea, and Russia have been trying to convince Pyongyang to give up its efforts to build nuclear weapons.
The talks have been stalled since Pyongyang refused to attend a fourth round that was scheduled for September. On Wednesday, South Korea's Unification Ministry said North Korean leaders had given visiting U.N. General Assembly President Jean Ping a positive message about reopening the negotiations.
North Korea demands aid and security guarantees in exchange for freezing its nuclear programs, but the United States says Pyongyang must take steps to dismantle the programs before it can receive any benefits.