Top of the list was the removal of UN sanctions imposed on the rogue Communist state following its October 9 test of a nuclear device and the removal of financial restrictions imposed in 2005 by the US.
It also asked to have a nuclear reactor constructed for it and demanded help covering its energy needs until the reactor was completed.
China continued to take the hard line with Pyongyang it adopted when supporting the UN sanctions, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Jiang Yu calling for action to follow commitments.
US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said his country supported the continuation of sanctions until the North disarmed and said the implementation of a September 2005 agreement in which the North pledged to abandon its nuclear program in exchange for security guarantees and aid was now the goal.
He said the US was "prepared to go the other road" ifa diplomatic solution proved unworkable.
The meeting was overshadowed by documents obtained by the Financial Times that showed Macau-based Banco Delta Asia had channeled possibly hundreds of millions of dollars in cash flowing to and from North Korea in 2005.
It was the freezing of BDA accounts, under US pressure, that led to Pyongyang abandoning the last talks in November 2005. Its decision to return last month was widely linked to the effect of the UN sanctions and indications that the US might be willing to offer more specific incentives.
With much of Kim’s internal support depending on the appearance of constant conflict with outside forces, the North’s reappearance is instead shaping up as a major PR offensive back home. As CHINA ECONOMIC REVIEW went to press, the low expectations going into the talks seemed in little danger of being exceeded.
New start for China-Japan
Chinese State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan said China and Japan were at a "new starting point" in relations following Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Beijing in October. "The two countries have already broken the five-year-long political stalemate and brought bilateral ties to the normal track of development," Tang told Fuyushiba Tetsuzo, Japan’s minister of land, infrastructure and transport. Tang said China and Japan should work to solidify political and economic ties and called on Tokyo to "properly handle" its links with Taiwan and "historical issues".
Contested leadership poll
Hong Kong looks set for a contested chief executive election this year after 114 of the 137 candidates put forward by the Civic Party, Democratic Party and their allies won seats on the Election Committee. It is thought that they, plus some politically unaffiliated lawmakers on the committee, will be sufficient to provide Civic Party legislator Alan Leong (above) with the 134 votes needed to secure nomination. Leong has no chance of actually becoming chief executive because Beijing sympathizers make up the bulk of the 800-member committee.
Poor get poorer
The real income of the poorest 10% of China’s 1.3 billion people fell by 2.4% in the two years to 2003, an analysis by World Bank economists found. Meanwhile, average incomes for China’s richest decile rose by more than 16%. The findings challenge the basis of government policies aimed at narrowing the country’s politically sensitive wealth gap.
Media restrictions eased
The foreign ministry announced it would relax restrictions placed on foreign journalists in the period up to and including the 2008 Beijing Olympics. From January 1, foreign journalists will no longer have to apply for permission from the relevant local authorities to do interviews outside of the cities where they are based. However, this new system will close at the end of the Paralympics in October 2008 and does not apply to travel in the politically sensitive Xinjiang and Tibet regions.
Beijing appointed Shen Deyong, a top judicial official, to head the Shanghai Commission for Discipline Inspection in the aftermath of the city’s pension fund scandal. It was the first time in years that Beijing had appointed a senior official to the city. Political analyst Hu Xingdou, of the Beijing Institute of Technology, said the appointment showed Beijing was determined to strengthen supervision and fight corruption in Shanghai.
HIV estimate questioned
China’s HIV/AIDS sufferers could number 10 times higher than the estimate of 650,000 released jointly by the Chinese government and UN health agencies last January, according to a leading AIDS activist. Wan Yanhai believes the true number could be at least 6.5 million, based on research done by the awareness group he leads, the Beijing Aizhixing Institute. The health ministry said last week that there were 183,733 confirmed sufferers at the end of October, up 27.5% year-on-year.
Low price Olympics
The Beijing Organising Committee (BOCOG) announced that tickets for the 2008 Beijing Olympics would cost just 30% of the 2004 Athens games. Tickets for sports events would cost from US$3.82-127, the opening ceremony US$25-637 and the closing ceremony US$19-382.6. About 58% of the 7 million tickets to be issued would cost US$12.75 or less. Tickets will go on sale in the first half of next year, with at least 50% reserved for the domestic market.
Beijing looks to buses
Affordable buses and expanded subway services, not a clampdown on car use, are the key to cutting congestion in Beijing ahead of the 2008 Olympics, city Mayor Wang Qishan said. Despite the capital’s overflowing roads, Wang said there would be "no problem" in 2008, pointing to the planned introduction of new bus lanes as well as a further 115 kilometers of urban rail. Wang is against restricting car use as he sees vehicle ownership as fundamental to rising personal consumption in the country.
Retirement age increase
The Ministry of Labor and Social Security was considering a raise in the retirement age to ease the impending welfare burden of China’s rapidly ageing society. China’s legal retirement age is 60 for men and 55 for most women but many employees of state-owned enterprises have been allowed to retire much earlier to create space for graduates. In addition, better nutrition and healthcare have led to a rise in life expectancy from about 35 years in the mid-20th century to 72 nowadays.
TV investment halted
China put aside rules issued in 2004 allowing foreign investors to take minority stakes in television and film production companies, Zhu Hong of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) told the Financial Times. SARFT had previously refrained from ruling out new joint ventures, but had limited most foreign companies to just one such venture since last year and banned any considered "unfriendly" to China. Since then, Communist party officials have ordered tighter curbs on foreign involvement in the media to protect "national cultural security".
Vatican backs Taiwan ties
The Vatican announced it will move to resume relations with China after more than 50 years if religious freedom is allowed but said it would not abandon China’s diplomatic rival Taiwan. The Vatican, which Taiwan sees as an important ally as it fights for international legitimacy against China, would seek to restore an apostolic nunciature in Beijing for the first time since the Communist Party began ruling China in 1949, said Monsignor Ambrose Madtha of the Vatican’s diplomatic mission in Taipei.
Lawyer put on trial
Gao Zhisheng, an activist Chinese lawyer, was tried on subversion charges but neither family nor a defense lawyer were allowed to attend. Prosecutors refused to release case files, claiming they contained state secrets. No outsiders were allowed into the "open" trial at a Beijing court, and no verdict or sentence was issued. Beijing has cracked down recently on lawyers representing people with grievances over corruption, land seizures or other sensitive issues.