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(2nd LD) N. Korean leader tours industrial facilities in China

All Headlines 16:37 August 26, 2011

(ATTN: RECASTS throughout with Kim's tour of industrial facilities; CHANGES headline and dateline)

BEIJING/CHANGCHUN/MANZHOULI, China, Aug. 26 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il toured industrial facilities in northeastern China on Friday on his way home from his trip to Russia, a source said.

Kim visited the facilities in the Chinese city of Qiqihar, though details were not immediately confirmed, the source said.

Qiqihar is known as a hub of automobile industries. Daqing, the presumed next destination for Kim, is China's largest oil field where petroleum and relevant chemical industries are well developed.

Kim's latest journey across China's northeastern region comes after he met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in the eastern Siberian city of Ulan-Ude earlier this week.

At the summit, Kim expressed willingness to return to long-stalled talks on ending Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programs and to impose a moratorium on tests and the production of nuclear weapons.

Kim sent a message of thanks to Medvedev and expressed hope that friendly ties with Russia will strengthen, the North's Korean Central News Agency said Friday.

Kim stopped in the Chinese border city of Manzhouli on Thursday for his fourth trip to the North's most important ally in just 15 months. He was greeted by senior Chinese Communist Party envoy Wang Jiarui, though it was not clear whether he would meet with other top Chinese officials.

In 2010, Kim held summit talks with President Hu Jintao in a state guest house in Changchun, an industrial hub in northeastern China.

In May, Kim visited an automaker, a solar energy company and a large discount store as he traveled across China's northeastern and prosperous eastern areas before reaching Beijing for another meeting with Hu.

China has become the North's last remaining ally and key economic benefactor as Russia influence's waned following the collapse of the Soviet Union two decades ago.

China hopes North Korea will follow in its footsteps in embracing the reforms that lifted millions of Chinese out of poverty and helped the country become the world's second-largest economy.

The North has vowed to build a prosperous and powerful nation by next year, though the prospect has been dimmed by its chronic food shortages.

The North has relied on international handouts since the late 1990s to help feed its 24 million people.

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