SEOUL - CHINA has invited North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il for a summit with President Hu Jintao as the allies celebrate the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations, the North's state media said on Thursday.
The invitation was extended on Wednesday by senior official Jia Qinglin to a visiting delegation of the North's ruling Workers' Party, the Korean Central Broadcasting Station said.
The station's report was carried by South Korea's Yonhap news agency, which monitors the North's broadcast media.
'Mutual visits by the leaders of the two countries are the most essential and irreplaceable in developing bilateral relations,' Jia was quoted as telling the North Korean officials.
'We will ardently welcome Comrade Kim Jong-Il and senior officials of the Korean party and government to visit China at a convenient time.' Jia is chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and the fourth-ranking member of the Communist Party's Politburo standing committee.
Mr Kim accepted a similar invitation from Mr Hu in a letter delivered by a Chinese party official last month, according to Chinese state media.
The official, Wang Jiarui, was the first foreign guest to meet Kim since his reported stroke last August.
No schedule has been set for a summit. Mr Kim last visited China in January 2006 in a trip focusing on its industrial facilities. Hu's last visit to Pyongyang was in October 2005.
Yonhap said the North Korean delegation was led by Ri Kwang-ho, a close confidant of Kim's and the country's top science expert. Mr Ri also accompanied the North Korean leader on his latest China visit.
Mr Jia proposed strengthening economic and trade links, according to the broadcaster, saying this would be beneficial to 'strategic cooperation.' After the meeting between Mr Kim and Mr Wang on January 23, North Korea announced that China has decided to provide free aid but gave no details.
China is by far the North's biggest trade partner. It fought for the North in the 1950-53 Korean War against South Korea and US-led United Nations forces.