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Jiang Offers Support for Korean Reconciliation - 2001-09-04

Chinese President Jiang Zemin says Beijing supports reconciliation between North and South Korea and Pyongyang's recent efforts to improve relations with the outside world. Mr. Jiang's comments came during a rare visit to North Korea's capital, Pyongyang. But, political turmoil in South Korea is complicating reconciliation efforts.

In meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, Chinese President Jiang Zemin offered support for efforts to reduce tension and improve relations between the Koreas.

In Beijing, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Zhu Bangzao, said Mr. Jiang is working for "peace and stability" on the volatile Korean peninsula. "On the reconciliation of North and South, we support the independent reconciliation and reunification, and we also support this [current] process," he said through a translator.

Mr. Zhu says China hopes for an "early resumption" of dialogue between North and South Korea.

At a banquet in Pyongyang, Mr. Kim said the Chinese president's visit is important and is strengthening the traditional friendship between the two countries.

The three-day visit began Monday and is the first by a Chinese head of state since 1992. China is North Korea's only major ally, but relations between the two neighbors were strained in the early 1990's when Beijing established ties with Seoul.

Mr. Jiang's trip began one day after North Korea unexpectedly asked South Korea to resume reconciliation talks after a six-month freeze.

South Korea's ruling party welcomed the proposal, but it faces great uncertainty due to domestic political squabbling over North-South relations.

Monday, South Korea's Parliament passed a motion of no-confidence in the minister in charge of the country's North Korean engagement policy. Unification Minister Lim Dong-won organized last year's historic summit with the North that, for a while improved relations between the two rivals. Tuesday, Mr. Lim and the entire South Korean cabinet offered to resign.

South Korea's President Kim Dae-jung, has made engaging the North the centerpiece of his administration. But conservative opposition members of Parliament are very critical of a policy that they say makes many concessions to North Korea.