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China's president to visit North Korea next week

Chinese President is set to visit North Korea next week, amid international efforts to convince the isolated country to stop developing nuclear weapons, China's government announced Friday. Hu Jintao will travel to North Korea next Friday before visiting Vietnam Oct. 31-Nov. 2, China Central Television said.

The report didn't say whether Hu would raise the nuclear issue or what other messages he might convey.

China is North Korea's last major ally and a key supplier of food and energy aid.

The United States and other countries have called on China to do more to convince its ally to disarm. But while Beijing says it wants a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, it hasn't pressured North Korea publicly.

Hu was invited to the North by its leader, Kim Jong Il, the official Xinhua News Agency said. The last visit by a top Chinese leader was in 2001, by then-President Jiang Zemin.

Kim, who rarely ventures out of his country, last visited Beijing in April 2004 amid tight secrecy.

Hu is making the trip in his capacity as general secretary of China's ruling Communist Party.

That would let Hu meet as an equal with Kim, who is leader of the North's ruling party but not the official head of state. His late father, North Korean communist founder Kim Il Sung, was named the country's "eternal president" following his death in 1994, reports the AP.