• Kyodo

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China on Tuesday welcomed Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s groundbreaking visit to North Korea and called on the two countries to normalize relations to help bolster peace in East Asia.

“It is our hope that through their joint efforts the two countries will solve the questions left over from history so that they will achieve the early normalization of their relations,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan told a regular news briefing.

“We have all along supported the efforts of the two countries to improve their relations so it will lead to the final normalization of bilateral ties. We also hope that the improvement of their bilateral ties will serve the interests of the peace, stability and development of East Asia.”

China, a close ally of North Korea, is watching Koizumi’s visit closely, the spokesman said.

Talks between Japan and North Korea on establishing diplomatic ties stalled in October 2000, but at their summit in Pyongyang, Koizumi and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il agreed to proceed with negotiations on normalizing relations.

China is holding up its own reform path of gradually introducing a market economy while maintaining strong one-party control as a model for North Korea to pull itself out of poverty and starvation.

During recent years, Kim has made secretive visits to China, which has showcased the results of its rapid economic development.

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