Beijing: North Korean leader Kim Jong Il left China on Friday after a secretive five-day visit that reaffirmed the importance of long-delayed nuclear disarmament talks but produced no firm dateline for rejoining that process.
Kim's armoured train crossed the border back into North Korea midmorning after leaving Beijing on Thursday following talks with Chinese leaders that touched on the six-nation denuclearisation talks stalled since December 2008.
"Kim said that the DPRK will work with China to create favourable conditions for restarting the six-party talks," the official Xinhua News Agency said in a report on his meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao.
The visit began on Monday and has been shrouded in secrecy in keeping with Kim's reclusive ways. In footage run by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, Kim, 68, who reportedly suffered a stroke in 2008, appeared thin but relatively vigorous in meetings with Chinese President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao, and other officials.
Kim, wearing a pea green leisure suit, was shown shaking hands with Chinese leaders at Beijing's Great Hall of the People, in footage apparently shot on Wednesday night. He exchanged comments with Hu in a conference room, then stood and read from a piece of paper at a banquet table and exchanged toasts, wine glass in hand.
Other footage showed him visiting a biotechnology firm accompanied by Hu, during an excursion to Beijing's Zhongguancun high-tech zone believed to have happened Thursday morning. The eccentric Kim is known to shun air travel and travels entirely by road and rail.
The Korean Central News agency said in a dispatch from Pyongyang that Kim made the "unofficial" visit starting Monday and ending on Friday. Kim was seen in China by journalists several times, although Chinese spokesmen repeatedly refused to confirm his presence in the country.
KCNA did not mention a one-on-one meeting with Hu or even a visit to Beijing, where Kim's motorcade was seen on Wednesday and Thursday. Its description of the visit as unofficial appeared to explain the lack of formal protocol such as an official welcoming ceremony or the flying of North Korean flags in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.
Kim has grown ever more dependent on Chinese aid and diplomatic support, while Beijing appears determined to provide whatever support necessary to prevent his impoverished regime's implosion and the potential political chaos that could bring severe unrest to its border.
The KCNA report said Kim toured the northeastern cities of Dalian and Tianjin and met with vice premier Li Keqiang and other officials.
"The leader of the DPRK received a sincere and warm welcome from Chinese people wherever he went in China," KCNA said. "Kim Jong Il expressed satisfaction over the result of his visit."
This week's visit was Kim's fifth to China since succeeding his father as ruler in 1994, the last being in 2006.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported that Kim told Hu he is ready to return to denuclearisation talks, under which North Korea agreed to dismantle its nuclear programs in return for food and fuel aid. Kim has similar things in past, but usually with attached conditions, such as a long-sought direct dialogue with the United States. Yonhap did not say what, if any, conditions he set this time.
First Published: Friday, May 07, 2010, 15:12