North Korea’s Kim woos visiting China Premier

BEIJING (Reuters) – North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-il  made a rare appearance to greet visiting Chinese Premier Wen  Jiabao at the start of a trip which swiftly yielded a statement  that North Korea was willing to discuss its nuclear weapons.

A report from China’s Xinhua news agency said Premier Wen  was greeted at the airport by Kim, the secretive leader who  dominates big decisions in his country.

In the evening, Kim accompanied Wen to a Korean opera  performance adapted from Dream of the Red Mansions, an  18th-century Chinese romantic novel, Xinhua reported.

Wen also held talks with North Korean Premier Kim Yong-Il  who told him Pyongyang was open to talks on its nuclear weapons  programme, which has drawn United Nations Security Council  sanctions backed by Beijing.

Kim Jong-il’s unusual outings, as well as the calming words  from Premier Kim, were a show of how serious North Korea is  about shoring up brittle ties with Beijing, which gives its poor  neighbour crucial economic help and diplomatic backing.

Kim Jong-il is widely believed to have suffered a serious  illness last year, and it is rare for him to personally greet an  arriving visitor. Even audiences are uncommon.

Wen’s three-day trip coincides with the 60th anniversary of  formal ties between the two communist neighbours.

But analysts said China, the closest North Korea has to an  ally, would not send such a senior visitor unless it had some  assurance from Pyongyang that could ease tensions over its  nuclear weapons activities, following a second nuclear test and  its claims to have made progress in enriching uranium.

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