북한의 핵실험 가능성에 대한 우려가 높아가고 있는 가운데 김정일 북한 국방위원장이 다음 주에 중국을 방문한다고 한국과 일본 언론들이 보도했습니다.
이들 언론들은 김 위원장이 다음 주 중반에 사흘 일정으로 베이징을 방문할 가능성이 있다고 밝혔습니다.
김 위원장의 방중설은 북한의 미사일 시험발사로 북한과 중국 간 관계가 긴장상태에 있는 가운데 나온 것이어서 주목됩니다.
한편 한국 정부는 노무현 대통령이 오는 10월 중국을 방문해 후진타오 국가주석과 정상회담을 갖고 북 핵 문제와 관련한 교착상태 해소 방안을 논의할 것이라고 밝혔습니다.
Reports say North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is to visit China next week as concerns grow that Pyongyang may soon test a nuclear explosive. As Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing, China's leaders also plan a meeting with the South Korean president, to discuss ways to bring Pyongyang back to nuclear disarmament talks.
News organizations in South Korea and Japan say Kim Jong Il could make a three-day trip to China in the middle of next week.
The visit, if it happens, would come as relations between the historical allies are strained over North Korea's recent missile tests and concerns Pyongyang may soon test a nuclear device.
Yan Xuetong is the director of international studies at China's Tsinghua University. He says Mr. Kim wants a security assurance from Beijing or else he will likely go ahead with a nuclear test.
"North Korea wants to know if China and North Korea will or will not continue to keep their military alliance."
Yan indicates it is unlikely China would agree to support Pyongyang militarily. He says no country is now willing to take responsibility for North Korea's behavior.
China supported its communist ally in the early 1950s during the Korean War, which China still calls the "Help North Korea Resist America" war.
However, as China has opened its economy and society to the outside world, North Korea has remained in self-imposed isolation.
China has hosted several rounds of negotiations with Russia, South Korea, the United States, and Japan aimed at convincing North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons programs.
Those talks have been stalled since November. Pyongyang refuses to return to talks until the U.S. removes financial sanctions it imposed for alleged illegal North Korean dealings, including counterfeiting.
Thursday, South Korea confirmed that President Roh Moo-hyun will visit China in October and will discuss ways to end the standoff with Chinese leaders.
Mr. Roh's senior security advisor was traveling to China Thursday for talks on North Korea with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing.
Last week, ABC News in the U.S. reported that North Korea might be preparing to test a nuclear explosive device - as part of its efforts to build nuclear bombs.
South Korea and the United States have warned Pyongyang that doing so would seriously escalate tensions.
In July North Korea defied warnings from its neighbors, including China, and test-fired seven missiles into the sea.
China joined the U.N. Security Council in condemning the launches as a provocation and calling on member states to refrain from contributing to North Korea's weapons programs.