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North Korean Leader Says Committed to Denuclearization

Chinese state media say North Korean leader Kim Jong Il told a visiting envoy that he is committed to denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

The official Xinhua news agency said Mr. Kim made the comment Friday during his first reported contact with a foreign official in more than six months.

The report quoted Mr. Kim as saying North Korea is willing to strengthen cooperation with China to push international denuclearization talks forward.

China hosts six-country negotiations aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

North Korean state media did not carry Mr. Kim's comments.

But it did report his meeting in Pyongyang with Wang Jiarui, the head of the Chinese Communist Party's international liaison department.

Chinese and Korean media released photos of the rare meeting, but no video footage. The North Korean leader appeared thinner and his left hand looked swollen.

Chinese media also reported that Mr. Kim accepted an invitation to visit China.

Mr. Kim has not received any foreign officials since last July. U.S. and South Korean officials say he suffered a stroke, probably in August. North Korea has denied the claim.

The last round of six-party talks in December in China ended without progress after North Korea rejected a proposal on ways to verify its progress toward nuclear disarmament. The United States, Russia, South Korea and Japan are also parties to the six-nation talks.

China is the closest ally of North Korea. The two neighbors are marking the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations this year.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.