PYONGYANG : Testing an Alliance

Chinese Premier Li Peng is due to arrive in the North Korean capital on a four-day goodwill visit Friday at the invitation of his North Korean counterpart, Premier Yon Hyong Muk.

China and North Korea continue to stress their traditional friendship, often described as "sealed in blood" through Beijing's support for Pyongyang in the Korean War. But some tension has been brought to their ties by Beijing's rapidly growing trade with capitalist South Korea.

While Pyongyang may be looking for Chinese economic assistance, China has urged Pyongyang to pursue peaceful reunification with South Korea, to open its nuclear facilities to international inspection and to institute market-oriented reforms that could ease its economic difficulties.

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