MOSCOW, November 26 (RIA Novosti) - Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie has met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il during the current visit to boost ties with a reclusive communist regime, the Xinhua news agency reported.
According to Xinhua, Kim Jong Il praised during the meeting the N. Korean-Chinese friendship as "a treasure inherited from the older generations of the leaders of the two counties, which had stood the test of history and was unbreakable."
In response, the Chinese minister said Beijing would continue to enlarge and deepen the exchange and cooperation with Pyongyang in the spirit of "inheriting tradition, facing up to the future, building good neighborly friendship and strengthening cooperation," Xinhua reported on Wednesday.
Experts believe, though, that one of the main purposes of Guanglie's visit was to convince N. Korea to return to the six-party negotiations over North Korea's nuclear program, which involve Russia, the United States, China, Japan and the two Koreas.
The country is banned from conducting nuclear or ballistic tests under UN Resolution 1718, adopted after North Korea's first nuclear test on October 9, 2006.
However, Pyongyang carried out a second nuclear test on May 25 this year, followed by a series of short-range missile launches, and has threatened to build up its nuclear arsenal to counter what it calls hostile U.S. policies.
The move led to the UN imposing new sanctions on North Korea banning the import and export of nuclear material and all weapons except small arms.
The North has recently hinted, though, that it was willing to return to six-party talks, but insisted it first negotiate directly with the United States to repair "hostile relations."
China, which opposes tough sanctions against Pyongyang, has welcomed the announcement of U.S. envoy Ambassador Stephen Bosworth visit to North Korea on December 8 in an attempt to pave the way for the revival of multilateral nuclear negotiations.