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Tuesday, 4 September, 2001, 07:03 GMT 08:03 UK
China steps into Korean debate
North Korea's Kim Jong-il greets Chinese President Jiang Zemin
The visit comes after two trips to China by Mr Kim
The Chinese President, Jiang Zemin, has pledged support for North Korea and the development of its relations with South Korea and the rest of the international community.

Speaking during a three-day visit to Pyongyang, he also pledged Chinese aid to the North.

Welcoming crowd for President Jiang
The Chinese leader entered Pyongyang to flower-waving crowds

Mr Jiang, who is due to hold summit talks with his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-il on Tuesday, is visiting at a time when debate rages in South Korea over the future of its "sunshine policy" of reconciliation with the North.

The North itself has been cool on relations with Seoul after friction with Washington over its defence policy.

"China supports reconciliation of the South and North," Mr Jiang told Mr Kim at the welcoming banquet.

China supports reconciliation of the South and North

Chinese President Jiang Zemin

"Further friendship" between the two Korean states countries would be contribute to "peace and security in Asia and the world at large".

Beijing also lent its backing to what the Chinese president said were Pyongyang's efforts towards normalising relations with the US, Japan and the EU.

Regarding aid to the North, where according to some estimates one million people have died from famine and disease, Mr Jiang said China would donate "grains and other materials".

Political crisis

On the eve of the Chinese leader's visit, Pyongyang offered to reopen stalled talks with the South.

The offer appeared timed to coincide with a vote of no confidence by the South Korean parliament in the minister responsible for ties with the North, Lim Dong-Won.

Mr Lim is closely has been heavily criticised following a visit of some 300 people from the South to the North two weeks ago which was seen as a propaganda coup for Pyongyang.

South Korean Unification Minister Lim Dong-won
The South's cabinet sticks by Mr Lim's policy of reconciliation

When Monday's vote - which was called by the opposition Grand National Party - was successful, the South's entire cabinet resigned but the government is still standing by its policy of engagement with the North.

Relations on the peninsula had seemed to be improving dramatically last year when Kim Jong-il held a historic summit with South Korean President Kim Dae-jung.

The summit saw a flurry of activities, including meetings between hundreds of separated families, as well as cultural and economic links.

But exchanges between the two countries came to a standstill early this year, after the new US administration of George W Bush announced it was reviewing its stance towards North Korea.

North Korea said that a second summit would not go ahead until Washington completed its policy review.

It also said talks would not be resumed if the US set conditions - a reference to Washington's warning that progress in bilateral relations would be blocked if the North lifted a moratorium on missile launches.

North and South Korea have technically been at war for more than half a century, as no peace treaty was signed at the end of their 1950-53 conflict.

The BBC's Rupert Wingfield Hayes
"Above all, China wants stability on the Korean peninsular"
See also:

04 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Vote defeat sinks S Korea cabinet
01 Sep 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Life in the secret state
06 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
S Korea calls for new summit
08 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Seoul's fears over Bush
08 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Bush rules out North Korea talks
13 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Kim Dae-jung: Korean peacemaker
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