North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il has told Chinese President Hu Jintao he would work towards reviving stalled nuclear disarmament talks but gave no timetable.
‘The DPRK (North Korea) is willing to work with you to create favourable conditions for a resumption of the six-party talks,’ Xinhua news agency quoted Mr Jong-Il as telling Mr Jintao during talks in Beijing.
Chinese state television broadcast footage of the pair meeting, with the 68-year-old Mr Jong-Il looking frail and elderly, his hair thinned, and wearing his trademark zipped-up khaki tunic with matching pants.
The report quoted Mr Jong-Il as saying he remained committed to ending his country's atomic drive, but gave no other details on the nuclear standoff.
It was the first official Chinese confirmation that the two leaders met during a highly secretive Monday-Friday visit to China by the reclusive North Korean leader.
Analysts have said Mr Jong-Il was likely to have sought further Chinese economic aid for his impoverished and isolated nation in return for sending positive signals on the stalled nuclear talks, which Pyongyang abandoned in April 2009.
China is North Korea's economic lifeline, supplying the bulk of its food and fuel needs.
Xinhua's report, however, made no mention of any new aid pledges, saying only that Chinese leaders promised to continue supporting North Korea economically.
‘China will, as always, support the DPRK's economic development and improving people's livelihood,’ Premier Wen Jiabao was quoted as telling Mr Jong-Il in a separate meeting.
Mr Jiabao added that China would share with the North its own experiences with reforming and opening its economy, it said.
During a visit to Pyongyang last October, Mr Jiabao proposed the development of a China-North Korean ‘economic belt.’ Earlier this week, Mr Jong-Il visited docks and industrial facilities in and around the Chinese ports of Dalian and Tianjin.
North Korea, which has tested two nuclear bombs, last year bolted from the six-nation talks under which it had agreed to give up its nuclear programme in return for badly needed aid and security guarantees.
The talks also include the US, South Korea, Japan and Russia.
It remained unclear how Kim's pledge of support for the six-party talks could affect the timetable for a resumption.
South Korea said yesterday those negotiations must wait until it determines what caused the 26 March sinking of a warship near the disputed border with North Korea.
That sentiment was echoed by the US special envoy on North Korea, Stephen Bosworth.
South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak hinted on Tuesday that Seoul suspects North Korea was involved in the sinking of the vessel Cheonan, which killed 46 sailors.