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Jiang walks N Korea tightrope

Jiang's arrival
Chinese President Jiang Zemin, right, is greeted by North Korean leader Kim Jong Il at Pyongyang airport  

By CNN's Willy Lam in Hong Kong

PYONGYANG, North Korea (CNN) -- Chinese President Jiang Zemin has vowed to help North Korea improve relations with South Korea as well as the Western world.

However, during his first visit to Pyongyang in 11 years, Jiang also discussed with North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-il ways and means to counter Washington's deployment of an anti-missile system.

Official Chinese media reported on Tuesday that the two leaders achieved "consensus on a broad range of issues" during talks a day earlier.

The Xinhua news agency quoted Jiang as expressing confidence the bilateral "relationship of friendship and cooperation will be pushed to new levels."

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Jiang told the North Korean leader that Beijing supported efforts by Pyongyang to improve ties or normalize relations with countries including the U.S., Japan and the European Union.

Writing in the Beijing-run Hong Kong daily Wen Wei Po, commentator Yu Shuyang said Kim had been trying hard to counter efforts by the administration of President George W. Bush to isolate North Korea.

Rousing welcome

Yu said Kim had achieved "preliminary success" in areas including boosting ties with Russia and China - as well as in re-opening a dialogue with South Korea despite American obstacles.

Diplomatic analysts in Beijing and Seoul said Kim had benefited from the high-profile visit by Jiang, who last visited Pyongyang when his father Kim Il-sung was still alive.

Partly to underscore the friendship with the Jiang administration, Kim mobilized more than 100,000 residents to welcome the Chinese delegation, which included senior cadres such as Vice-Premier Qian Qichen and Jiang's chief aide, Zeng Qinghong.

The analysts said Beijing's diplomatic leverage with the U.S., Japan and South Korea would also expand given the renewed demonstration of the "lips and teeth" relationship with Pyongyang.

It is understood Beijing recently boosted economic aid, including supplies of grain, coal, oil and fertilizers, to North Korea.

Jiang also took the opportunity to encourage Kim to experiment with Chinese-style market reforms.

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