N. Korea's Kim in Beijing, to meet Hu: report

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il arrived in Beijing on Wednesday after a tour of industrial facilities in eastern China and was to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao, a South Korean media report said.

Kim's special train, which brought him into China last Friday for his third visit in just over a year, pulled into the Chinese capital in the morning, Yonhap news agency said.

It said Kim, 69, entered the Diaoyutai state guest house, where foreign leaders are hosted, and was to meet Wednesday with Hu.

A North Korean flag flutters at its embassy in Beijing

During Kim's last visit to China in August, Hu urged the North Korean leader to undertake economic reforms.

China's foreign ministry had no immediate comment when contacted by AFP.

Kim's arrival in Beijing marks the climax of a trip during which he has inspected manufacturing sites in northeastern and eastern China, according to media reports -- a tour believed aimed at studying China's economic boom.

The repeated visits to China by a reclusive leader who rarely leaves his homeland are widely viewed as a bid by impoverished North Korea for more trade and economic help from Beijing, its sole major ally and benefactor.

On Tuesday, as Kim's entourage reportedly visited the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing, a US government team arrived in North Korea to assess its requests for food aid.

UN agencies and charities have reported that millions in the economically dysfunctional nation need urgent assistance.

During a stay in the city of Yangzhou near Nanjing, Kim browsed shelves stocked with daily necessities such as rice and cooking oil in a store on Monday, and visited an economic development zone, Yonhap reported earlier.

He also reportedly dined in Yangzhou with former Chinese president Jiang Zemin, who was born in the city.

Kim's China visits are shrouded in secrecy with details divulged by both sides only after his return home.

North Korea's state-planned economy is crippled by severe power, raw materials, and food shortages, and overseas aid is waning due to anger at Pyongyang's nuclear and missile development.

Sanctions have been imposed to curb those programmes.

Six-nation talks hosted by China and aimed at dismantling the nuclear program in exchange for diplomatic and economic benefits have been stalled for more than two years.

On Tuesday, Washington imposed sanctions against 16 firms and individuals, including from China, over trade with North Korea, Iran, and Syria in goods or technology that may be used for weapons of mass destruction or missiles.

Kim also is believed to be keen to shore up Beijing's support for a plan to eventually transfer power to his son and designated successor, Kim Jong-Un.

Various reports have indicated the heir apparent was not travelling with his father in China.

AFP

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