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North Korea's premier travels to Chinese port city of Dalian: sources

All Headlines 18:56 November 07, 2010

SHENYANG, China Nov. 4 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's premier traveled Sunday to the northeastern Chinese port city of Dalian for what appeared to be the final leg of his visit to China aimed at strengthening economic ties between the countries, sources said.

The communist allies confirmed Thursday that Choe Yong-rim was making an "unofficial working visit" to northeastern China. The Cabinet premier was in the city of Shenyang before he departed for Dalian, sources in the port city said.

China is North Korea's foremost benefactor, providing energy and food. North Korean leader Kim Jong-il visited the neighboring ally twice this year, the latest visit in August, underscoring the deepening relations between the two sides amid international sanctions tightening against Pyongyang.

During his visit to Changchun, Jilin Province, Choe met with Zhang Dejiang, a vice premier of the State Council of China, according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

In a separate report, China's official Xinhua News Agency quoted Zhang as saying that his government "supports the expansion of cooperation and joint development between the (North) and China's northeast region."

In Dalian, Choe is expected to tour major industrial facilities as his country pushes to develop one of its own port cities near China into an economic hot spot.

Believed to be a key aide to North Korea's next leader, Kim Jong-un, the premier inspected electronics and medicine companies and an agricultural research center in Harbin last week, according to diplomatic sources.

Choe was promoted by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il at a parliamentary convention in June. His trip to China comes after 12 of the highest-ranking North Korean mayoral and provincial chiefs visited the same region in October, touring food, chemical and agricultural factories along with other major facilities.

Choe, 79, formerly chief of the Pyongyang department for the ruling Workers' Party, has been noted for his rise to power in the past several months. He gave a speech at a mass rally on May 30, where as many as 100,000 North Koreans reportedly denounced South Korea and the United States for blaming Pyongyang for the sinking of a South Korean warship in March.

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