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North Korea's premier will visit China
North Korea's premier will visit China next week as the two countries celebrate the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties, a Chinese Foreign Ministry official said on Tuesday.

"Kim Yong Il will pay an official visit on March 17-21 at the invitation of Chinese State Council head Wen Jiabao," the diplomat said, without giving further details.

China, which backed the North in the 1950-1953 war with South Korea and U.S.-led forces, is the secretive communist state's biggest trade partner and closest ally. China is also part of long-running attempts to persuade Pyongyang to scrap its nuclear program.

The announcement comes as tensions rise on the Korean Peninsula. The North has put its forces on full combat readiness in response to military drills by South Korea and the U.S. Pyongyang has called the exercises a preparation for an attack. The South and the U.S. have said the drills are purely defensive in nature.

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