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China envoy in N. Korea

MONDAY, FEB. 8, 2010

Official expected to discuss six-way disarmament talks

SEOUL, South Korea – A senior Chinese envoy was in North Korea today on a mission to persuade the reclusive state to rejoin nuclear disarmament talks, reports said, while officials from the two Koreas met in the North to discuss restarting joint tour programs.

Wang Jiarui, a top Communist Party official, will likely meet today with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il to discuss the stalled six-party nuclear talks, the South Korean cable network YTN reported.

The mass-circulation Chosun Ilbo newspaper carried a similar report, saying Wang is expected to deliver a message from President Hu Jintao to Kim. The paper, citing an unidentified senior South Korean official, said the North will likely promise during Wang’s trip to make progress in denuclearization in return for Chinese economic assistance.

In Beijing, officials at the Foreign Ministry declined to comment on Wang’s trip.

The visit from North Korea’s chief ally and benefactor comes amid an international push to get North Korea back to negotiations on dismantling the regime’s nuclear program. U.N. political chief B. Lynn Pascoe also was due in Pyongyang this week.

A South Korean delegation, meanwhile, traveled to a North Korean border town to discuss restarting tours to the North’s famed Diamond Mountain resort and ancient sights in downtown Kaesong. The tours, which offered South Koreans and others a rare chance to visit North Korea, were suspended in 2008 amid inter-Korean tensions.

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