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Saturday, Feb. 21, 2009

Kim Jong Il in good health, reports visiting Chinese official


Staff writer

Chinese Communist Party official Wang Jiarui said Friday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il appeared in good health during their meeting last month in Pyongyang, countering reports that Kim suffered a debilitating stroke last summer.

Wang, director of the international department of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee, was in Tokyo to meet with members of the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling bloc to discuss Japan-China relations.

Speaking at a news conference following the meeting, Wang, without prompting, brought up the subject of Kim's health, in an apparent attempt to brush aside media speculation that the reclusive state is on the verge of leadership change.

"As I have repeatedly said, there was no change in (Kim) between the last meeting and this year's meeting," Wang said. "I think that the fact that we met should make clear (Kim's condition)."

Wang said he and Kim discussed not only China-Korea relations but also other international affairs, including the abduction issue, at the January meeting.

"I have taken notice of Japan's interest in the abductee and nuclear weapons issues and I passed it on to the North Korean side," Wang said, urging Japan and North Korea to strive to resolve their differences. "If both sides continue sticking to their own opinions, I think it will be difficult to find ways to come up with a solution. . . . if both sides seriously put their heads together and talk it over, the problems will be resolved."

Wang met with Kim to deliver a personal letter from Chinese President Hu Jintao to commemorate the 60th anniversary of ties between the nations. During the meeting, Wang said they discussed North and South Korea issues and other international concerns, including the six-party talks on denuclearizing the North.

"Kim himself clearly said he does not want to see strained relations on the Korean Peninsula," Wang said. "He also praised the six-party talks and said (North Korea) would work together closely with China within the framework to make sure that the meetings are most effective."

Wang noted Japan and China also have various pending issues that he said his country is ready to resolve. They include the territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands and exploration for gas in the East China Sea.

"There are still some sensitive issues, hot topics in China-Japan relations," Wang said. "But the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party are not avoiding the issues. We would like to take them up squarely and search actively for ways to resolve the issues together with Japan."



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