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(LEAD) N. Korean leader arrives in Beijing for possible summit with Hu

All Headlines 12:07 May 25, 2011

(ATTN: UPDATES with details and background)

BEIJING, May 25 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is expected to hold summit talks on Wednesday with Chinese President Hu Jintao that are to focus on bilateral ties, Pyongyang's nuclear programs and Kim's power succession plan to his son.

Kim entered the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in downtown Beijing soon after his special train arrived in the capital's railway station at 9 a.m. after a 19-hour ride through China's eastern areas from Nanjing.

No details of Kim's schedule in Beijing were immediately available as North Korea and China remain almost silent on his trip shrouded, as is typical, in secrecy.

The possible summit with Hu comes six days after Kim crossed the border and toured major cities in China's northeastern and southeastern areas on what appears to be a study tour of China's vibrant economy.

Hu indirectly urged Kim to open his isolated country during their previous summit held in the northeastern city of Changchun last August.

Kim has so far visited an automaker, IT companies, a solar energy company and a large discount store as well as a top electronics company as he traveled across China's northeastern and southeastern regions before reaching Beijing.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in Tokyo on Sunday that Beijing invited Kim to study Chinese economic development and use lessons learned to revive the North's faltering economy.

China has repeatedly pressed its impoverished ally to follow in its footsteps in embracing the reform that lifted millions of Chinese out of poverty and helped Beijing's rise to the world's second-largest economy.

North Korea appears to be concerned that outside influences associated with reform and openness could undermine its control on its 24 million people and eventually pose a threat to its regime's survival.

Kim's third trip to China, the North's last remaining ally and benefactor, in just over a year is likely to serve as a litmus test on whether it is serious on reform and openness.

The North's experiment with limited reforms backfired in recent years, deepening the country's economic woes with no relief in sight anytime soon.

In March, the U.N. food agency appealed for 430,000 tons of food aid to feed 6 million vulnerable North Korean people, a quarter of the country's population.

Robert King, the U.S. envoy for North Korean human rights, arrived in North Korea on Tuesday to survey the North's food situation, a possible indication for the resumption of food aid to the North.

The possible summit also comes amid no signs of progress to resume long-stalled talks aimed at ending Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programs. The talks involve the two Koreas, the United States, host China, Russia and Japan.

The North has expressed its willingness to rejoin the nuclear talks that it quit in 2009, but Seoul and Washington demand that Pyongyang first demonstrate its denuclearization commitment by action.

Seoul also wants Pyongyang to apologize for its two deadly attacks on the South last year that killed a total of 50 South Koreans, mostly soldiers.

Kim's power succession plan is also expected to be on the agenda for talks.

Kim, who inherited power from his late father, the North's founder Kim Il-sung, has taken steps to extend his family dynasty into a third generation since he suffered a stroke in 2008.

He named his youngest son, Jong-un, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the North's ruling Workers' Party and a four-star general last year in the clearest sign yet to make him the next North Korean leader.
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