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China - North Korea

Kim Jong-Il goes to China

Reuters

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il arrived in China on Monday, his first trip there in more than four years. The visit has raised hopes that China could bring Pyongyang back to stalled six-nation talks aimed at dismantling North Korea's atomic programme.

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Kim arrived by train (he is said to dislike air travel). The visit has not been officially confirmed but border officials say he arrived in China at about 5am. He met leaders of the Dangdong city government at a hotel on his way to Dalian. From there, he is likely to travel to Beijing.

China is North Korea's main source of food, finance and fuel. For the last 20 years, North Korea has suffered from food shortages, which have been exacerbated by an unsuccessful currency reform last year.

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Analysts say Kim could agree to return to the talks in return for economic aid.

"Probably Kim Jong-Il will want to have some economic aid from China," said analyst Noh Jong-sun. "Hu Jintao would like to encourage North Korea to come and join the six-party talks."

North Korea says it will return to the negotiations, which it stormed out of in April 2009, if United Nations sanctions are lifted. China, Russia, Japan, the US and both Koreas are involved in the talks.

South Korean and US officials have said the talks cannot restart until it is confirmed that North Korea was not responsible for blowing up a South Korean warship in March. South Korea has promised reprisals against whoever it finds guilty of the attack, which killed 46 sailors.

On Friday, South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak met the Chinese president Hu Jintao and North Korea's number two Kim Yong-Nam on the sidelines of the World Expo in Shanghai.

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