North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has apologized to China and reassured his powerful neighbor that he has no plans to conduct further nuclear tests, according to reports on Friday that suggest Pyongyang is backing down in the face of unprecedented pressure from a historic ally.
Amid tightening of financial sanctions and growing international isolation, Kim was quoted as telling a senior Chinese envoy on Thursday that he was prepared to return to the negotiating table and compromise with the US.
Despite longstanding differences in their approaches to Pyongyang, the governments of China, South Korea, Japan and Russia have come together in condemning the North's nuclear test.
The biggest shift has been evident in China, a vital source of oil, food and, until this year, diplomatic and economic support for the North.
Beijing has gone much further than many expected in implementing UN sanctions, which ban shipments of weapons of mass destruction, trade in related materials, luxury goods and the freezing of accounts connected to the nuclear program.
As well as tighter cargo checks at the main border crossing of Dandong, China has ordered at least four banks to freeze money transfers to North Korea.
According to the New York Times, it is also threatening to cut low-cost oil supplies in a cross-border pipeline that is thought to provide more than 80 percent of North Korea's needs.
This leverage appeared to have paid off on Friday when China's special envoy to Pyongyang, Tang Jiaxuan (
According to South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper, Kim expressed remorse for putting China in a difficult situation and demonstrated a willingness to compromise.
"If the US makes a concession to some degree, we will also make a concession to some degree, whether it be bilateral talks or six-party talks," the North Korean leader was quoted as saying by an unnamed diplomatic source in Beijing.
China has yet to confirm the reports, but the foreign ministry in Beijing said the meeting focused on ways to restart the six-country negotiating process
A Chinese foreign affairs analyst said Kim had underestimated China.
"North Korea's aim was to stir up international attention. They thought that would increase their bargaining power in the talks, but the situation did not turn out in the way they hoped," said Wang Lingyi, a researcher at the Shanghai Aca-demy of Social Science.