N Korea's Kim meets top China official

2010-12-09 13:02

Beijing - North Korean leader Kim Jong Il met on Thursday with China's senior-most foreign policy-maker Dai Bingguo in Pyongyang, Chinese state media reported, amid high tensions on the Korean peninsula.

"The two sides reached consensus on bilateral relations and the situation on the Korean Peninsula after candid and in-depth talks," said the brief report from Xinhua news agency, datelined Pyongyang.

It marked the first time that Kim has met with a senior foreign official since the North's November 23 shelling of a South Korean island, which left four dead including two civilians and wrecked more than two dozen homes.

Beijing has come under increasing pressure from its partners in the region to rein in its wayward ally following the incident, which was the first shelling of civilian areas in South Korea since the 1950-53 Korean war.

On Wednesday, the top US military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, accused China of ducking its responsibility to keep Pyongyang in line, as he announced more joint military exercises with South Korea.

"The Chinese have enormous influence over the North, influence that no other nation on earth enjoys. And yet, despite a shared interest in reducing tensions, they appear unwilling to use it," Mullen said.

Differences downplayed

"Even tacit approval of Pyongyang's brazenness leaves all their neighbours asking what will be next," he added before heading for Japan for talks on defence co-operation.

US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg will lead a high-level delegation to Beijing next week to consult on developments on the Korean peninsula.

Steinberg this week attempted to downplay differences with China, speaking of the "critical role" Beijing can play in the situation and saying it was in the interests of both the US and China to work together.

The day before, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her counterparts from South Korea and Japan had held talks in Washington which ended with a call for China to step up and do more.

The US is expected to "speak to China to tell North Korea in more clear language not to make provocations", South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-Hwan told reporters, upon his return from the United States.